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Hurricane guide 2014: Superchlorinate the water in your pool — don’t drain it


If a big storm is on the way, draining your swimming pool isn’t going to do much to stave off flooding — but superchlorinating the water can give you a leg up afterward in many ways, professionals say.

Pool enclosure photographed the day after Hurricane Wilma visited the Cooper City home of Jay and Patsy Fernandez in 2005.
Pool enclosure photographed the day after Hurricane Wilma visited the Cooper City home of Jay and Patsy Fernandez in 2005.
Courtesy of the family

What to do

• Super chlorinate the pool to prevent contamination.

• If you fear flooding, lower the water level by 6 inches at most.

• Bring indoors or tightly secure any patio furniture. Never place these items inside the pool.

• Turn off power at the circuit breakers to the water pump and backyard.

The No. 1 piece of advice from pool professionals in preparing for a storm is to chlorinate heavily and resist the temptation to drain the pool.

“When a storm passes, you won’t know how long until water is restored,” said Luis Ibarra, director of a Pinch A Penny at Southwest 40th Street and Southwest 112th Avenue. “Airborne debris could fall into the pool, and that could create contaminants. Then you’ll have a mosquito infestation because it’s standing water.”

In a dry pool, rainwater can collect and become contaminated quickly. Having super-chlorinated water can prevent contamination and also preserve a source of water in case running water is unavailable.

“The water that you’re chlorinating also serves to a certain degree as potable water and can be used to flush toilets,” Ibarra said. “If people want to drain it because they feel they’ll get flooded, at most a few inches can be drained. I didn’t see any flooding from pools during Hurricane Andrew.”

For hot tubs and small spas, Bill Perrish, repair manager at All Florida Pool and Spa, said super-chlorinating the water and securely strapping a cover on will hold down the spa, protect its interior and preserve a source of clean water.

“The spa cover is cheap and replaceable, and in the event that you get flying debris, it’ll damage the cover instead of the spa,” Perrish said.

Next, pool owners should turn to their pumps. If it is not already bolted to the ground, it is important to secure it in place to keep it from dislodging and to take measures to prevent the equipment from becoming an electrical hazard.

“Hit the breaker for all of the equipment and the lights in the backyard in case something gets dislodged, so that you don’t have live wires,” Ibarra said.

Perrish said that failing to disable power going to the pumps can make them susceptible to power surges. He added that there is no need to cover pumps with plastic. “These are outdoor-rate appliances,” he said.

Lounge chairs and other patio furniture should be stored indoors, not in the pool.

“The turbulence will move the furniture around and scratch the tile and pool finish,” Perrish said.

After the storm passes, professionals advise people to be careful while assessing the damage. Remove any debris that has fallen into the pool to prevent the water pump from clogging, and make sure the pump is completely dry before turning it back on.

It’s time to call a professional if there is any electrical damage, broken tiles or excessive debris.

Making these preparations beforehand will lessen the effects of an inevitable storm.

“We saw everything happen to pools back during Andrew. We’ve seen entire trees in pools, large patio planters; we’ve seen roofing materials, screen enclosures. … We’ve seen beautiful blue-green pools end up black. We saw hundreds of motors fail,” Perrish said.

“We were draining and cleaning pools for six months.”

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