Hurricane Prep for your Pool
In the frenzy of preparing for an impending hurricane, many of those with residential pools overlook steps needed to prepare the pool for a major storm. Following are some tips, do’s and don’ts when it comes to pool preparation prior to and after a hurricane.
Before the Storm- what NOT to do
- Do not drain or partially drain your pool before a storm
- Never place outdoor furniture or accessories in the pool for storm storage
- Do not shock your pool before a storm
- Never trim your landscape into the pool
- Do not pressure-wash into your pool
It is not necessary to “shock” your pool before a hurricane, tropical storm, or expected heavy rain. There will typically be so much rain and debris involved that the chemicals should be reserved for after the storm. Excess rain could dilute any added pool chemicals and have them washing into your lawn with a big rain event.
Never is it a good idea to empty your residential pool – neither partially nor completely – when expecting a big rain event. In some instances storms turn away or major rain does not arrive as predicted. If you have drained your pool down to below the skimmer and no rain comes, this could burn up your pump motor costing you hundreds of dollars in pump repairs or replacement, possibly even causing a fire. And the cost of refilling the pool with hundreds of gallons (or more) of municipal water after a close call could similarly add hundreds of dollars to your monthly water bill.
But if the storm does hit, the pool is made to hold water and can handle being filled to overflowing. In a storm, when many inches of rain are expected, the ground surrounding a pool can become saturated. All that extra water on the outside of even a partially drained pool could cause the pool to crack or even to “pop” up out of the ground, causing leaks, major damage to plumbing and electrical wiring, and possibly cause the decking structure to heave. It is best to keep the pool full and drain excess water only after the storm has fully passed and the ground around the pool is not so saturated. Any excess rainwater will drain away over the pool deck and, hopefully, away from structures. You may have your pool water tested after a storm and treat it accordingly only after all debris is removed.
The University of Florida’s Electronic Data Information Source (EDIS) publication entitled, “Closing Your Seasonal Home” has a paragraph on pool care while you are away from home. These tips will work if you are also evacuating for a storm.
Never place patio furniture and outdoor accessories into the pool to keep them from blowing away. The water and chemicals will cause corrosion of the furniture and could leave staining on the pool’s finish, another expensive problem to fix. Any dirt or debris wedged into the legs of the outdoor furniture could also leave the pool finish stained, making it necessary to resurface the pool.
During the Storm
Keep an eye on the pool’s bottom drain and skimmer basket. Keep the pump running as long as possible to keep it all circulating through the filter. This will help remove the small particles which blow into the pool. If leaves, twigs, or other debris cover the bottom drain or fill the skimmer, empty them quickly to keep the circulation going. If the water level reaches the top of the pool and the power is still on this is a good thing. The overflow of water will always follow the law of gravity and should flow away from your home, if the pool and decking have been engineered properly.
After the Storm
Once the storm is over and you have assessed the area to be sure there are no downed power lines, it is important for you to remove any debris from the pool before decomposition of the debris has a chance to cause staining to the pool finish. If you have a pool cleaning service, do not count on them getting to your pool immediately. These service people usually have a weekly route and day scheduled for your service and many other pool-owners that will be in the same position as you, so be patient. They may also charge a “clean-up” fee which should be less costly if you have removed major storm debris from the pool yourself.
WARNING!: Beware of unexpected wildlife when doing your after-storm clean-up. Gators, turtles, crabs, birds, rabbits, frogs, snakes, and bears can all get confused by all that extra water and downed trees and show up in the strangest places!
Once the area around the pool is relatively dry of standing water it is time to bring your water level back down to mid-way up the tile line or half- way up the skimmer. This will drain additional water off into your landscape. Do not treat the water with chemicals until it is down to the proper level and be careful where you aim the drain hose.
It is also wise not to turn your back on a draining pool. It is very easy to get busy with other tasks and forget the water level. Refilling the water again could be costly in your water bill and in treatment chemicals.
You may desire to have your house and pool deck pressure washed after storm clean-up. But keep as much of that dirty pressure-wash spray away from your pool as possible. A qualified pressure wash serviceman can aim the spray away from the pool. Not only will those added chemicals and dirt throw off the chemical balance of your pool but also the tiny debris particles could cause damage to pool equipment and lead to unnecessary extra cleanings. Most pool service vacuums will not catch these tiny particles so they will remain in the pool for some time and can cause unhealthy algae blooms.
Particles stirred up by pressure washing:
- dirt and grass clippings
- fertilizers and pesticide residues
- paint chips, sand, and concrete pieces
- algae, mold, and fungus
- pet & wildlife waste
- septic tank overflow from high water levels
You do NOT want to swim in that chemical bath. Try to keep the overspray of pressure washing away from your pool to eliminate any extra debris entering your pool water.
Once all the clean up is finished and a chemical check is done, then it may be time for a shock treatment. These treatments should kill most bacteria, algae, and viruses but they will NEVER remove harmful chemicals from your pool water. Water and Chlorine evaporate; fecal matter, pesticides, and fertilizers do not evaporate from water but remain in the pool until it is drained and refilled.
After an appropriate time for the shock treatment to do it’s job (your pool service tech can tell you how long to wait) you will then be able to enjoy an evening dip before bedtime after a long, hot day of storm clean up.
The University of Florida EDIS publication “Closing your Seasonal Home” can be found at: https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/he887
The UF EDIS publication entitled: “Reclaimed Water Use in the Landscape: Frequently Asked Questions about Reclaimed Water” has advised not to use reclaimed water to fill your pool.
UF EDIS also has two publications on dealing with wildlife in your landscape.
- “Dealing with Snakes in Florida’s Residential Areas- Identifying Commonly Encountered Snakes” https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/uw258
- “Dealing with Unwanted Wildlife in an Urban Environment”, https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/uw070