It’s once again hurricane season in Florida! If you’ve lived in a home with a swimming pool for a while, you probably know the drill about preparing for a named storm. But newcomers to the Sunshine State and those whose previous home may not have featured a pool perhaps need a little education. Though the official hurricane season is from June 1 through November 30, August and September are the peak months – which means you still have time to do the bigger jobs, like cutting down tree branches that overhang your roof or screen enclosure.
Otherwise, most of the advice that follows is specific to battening down the hatches when a hurricane watch or warning is issued. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), a hurricane watch means that hurricane conditions (sustained winds of 74 mph or higher) are possible within the specified area. A hurricane watch is issued 48 hours in advance of the anticipated onset of tropical-storm-force winds in an area. A hurricane warning means that hurricane conditions are expected somewhere within the specified area, and is issued 36 hours in advance of the anticipated onset to allow for preparation.
How to Prepare Your Pool and Patio Before a Hurricane
Although two-to-two-and-a-half days may seem like plenty of time to get your pool ready, keep in mind you’ll be busy making other preparations – such as ensuring you have enough batteries, flashlights and “hurricane food” to see you through a prolonged power outage, as well as gathering important papers, medications and valuables so they can be readily taken with you if you need to evacuate. Having a game plan for your pool and patio will help you take fast action in a calm, efficient manner so you won’t worry that you forgot something after the first rainband sweeps in.
The following advice comes from In The Swim, the Florida Swimming Pool Association (FSPA) and our blog posts – “How to Protect Your Pool During Hurricane Season” – and “How to Prepare Your Pool Before a Storm.”
Remove loose items from around the pool area – Look around now to identify what you’ll need to bring indoors, move to a covered area or secure in place. Objects such as chairs, tables, toys and pool cleaning tools can become dangerous projectiles in hurricane-force winds and should be stored indoors. Bring container plants inside. If this isn’t possible, line them against a wall in a covered area. You can bring a gas grill indoors, but leave the propane tank outside, chained in an upright position to a solid object or structure.
Don’t throw patio furniture into the pool unless as a last resort. If it is necessary to do so, gently place these items into the pool to prevent possible damage to the interior finish and remove as soon as possible to avoid staining. Never place glass items in the pool. Skimmer lids should be screwed in place to avoid flying off. Inspect the fence for loose sections, and secure any loose light posts or signs.
Shock your pool – To prevent contamination from the anticipated debris and excessive storm water, add a “shock” dose of liquid or granular chlorine. Lower the pH first to around 7.2 for best results, and run the filter after shocking for several hours to circulate.
Don’t cover your pool – This may seem counterintuitive, but it’s less expensive to remove debris from your pool after a hurricane than replace a pool cover that’s been damaged by the same.
Don’t drain your pool – Do not drain your pool before the storm – or ever! Draining a pool can cause it to bulge, split or pop out of the ground. The only time you should need to drain your pool is when it requires a major repair, and that should always be done by a professional. Our blog post – “Why You Should Never Drain Your Pool Yourself” – covers this topic in greater detail.
Protect Your Pool’s Electronics
Pool electronics are typically safe from the elements, but the extreme, prolonged high winds and torrential rains of a named storm are the exception. Take the following precautions once a hurricane or tropical storm is projected to hit your area:
- Power down your equipment at the circuit breaker. This includes your pump, lighting, chlorinator and all other electric equipment in your pool setup. The likelihood of them getting damaged or overworked is high.
- Wrap your pump, automatic timer, heater, and light fixtures in a few layers of plastic. Use duct tape and rope to secure the wrapping in place. If possible, physically disconnect power to the devices.
Prevent Damage to the Screen Enclosure
Although they’re great at keeping out insects and alligators (usually), screen pool enclosures are vulnerable to hurricane winds. Some damage to the frame of a screen structure may be prevented if you provide a “vent” for wind to flow through. Consider removing screen panels on opposite sides of the enclosure by pulling out the vinyl spine that holds the panels.
By the way, your screen enclosure is not considered a covered, protected place. Patio furniture needs to be moved indoors, as screen enclosures offer no protection against high sustained winds. The screen panels and even frames themselves can be damaged by patio furniture thrown against them.
What to Do After the Storm
Before stepping outside, wait until receiving confirmation from your local news outlet that the storm has passed. For Florida newcomers, this is important so that you don’t go outdoors as the calm eye – or center – of the hurricane passes over. Full-force winds will soon be back! Also wait for confirmation that it is safe to venture out, even to assess the condition of your property. Live downed power lines are a deadly hazard. If the hurricane hits at night, also wait until full daylight to check for damage.
Once all is clear, take the following steps:
- Do not immediately turn your pumps back on.
- Remove debris from the pool with a net, skimmer or pool rake – do not use your regular pool vacuum equipment or pool pumps, as they are likely to clog the plumbing.
- Before touching any electrical equipment after the storm, be sure that everything is dry. Check circuit breakers to be sure they are off before attempting to reconnect electrical equipment such as pump motors. Inspect wiring for proper connections. If electric motors have been exposed to water, they should be checked by a professional.
- Shock your pool again – this will begin the process of getting your pool chemistry back into balance.
How Owners of Above-Ground Pools Can Prepare
Don’t drain the pool – Pool owners may be afraid that the high amounts of rain will cause their pool to overflow, flood their property, and damage equipment. However, the weight of the pool water will help to hold the pool in place and eliminate the possibility of it detaching from the ground, or loose debris scratching the floor or liner. Typically, overflowing pool water won’t harm surrounding vegetation. It’s better to ensure your pool will remain in place than the possibility of water overflowing. If you still are afraid of flooding, you can safely reduce the pool water by 2-3 inches as an added precaution.
Turn off power and tie down or remove equipment – The first step is to turn off the circuit breaker connected to all of your pool equipment. If high rainfall is expected and you fear that your equipment may be affected by large amounts of water, you can move your pool components indoors to a dry location. This is much easier to do with an above-ground pool versus an in-ground pool. If you can’t bring the components indoors, you can still protect your pump, motor and other electronics by covering them with a waterproof cover or plastic and tying the cover down tightly with ropes or tape.
Remove the pool cover and balance your chemicals – High winds can cause a range of potential issues for your pool. Your first instinct may be to cover your pool to keep leaves, dirt and other debris out. This is not recommended, since the pool cover can be easily blown off in high winds, and then ripped by a tree branch or damaged from objects falling on top of the cover. Since your pool cover will be off, you most likely will have organic material and debris that will have to be removed. Still, it’s far less expensive to remove leaves and branches, then balance your chemicals than to replace a damaged pool cover. Before a storm, you can counteract the effects that rainwater will have on the pool chemistry and help with post-storm cleanup by shocking your pool water.
Our Wish for a Quiet Hurricane Season
Our team at Certified Leak Detection hopes for a quiet and uneventful 2022 hurricane season. While we do not perform swimming pool maintenance or repair, we want you, your pool and your property to be protected and safe! We look after all of your leak-related issues, be it your swimming pool, spa or fountain. We serve areas throughout Central Florida, including Orlando, Longwood, Lake Mary, Sanford, Kissimmee, Clermont and Winter Springs. Contact us for quick and reliable service.