Here are a few tips for proper pool care during the El Niño season and any time heavy storms, high winds, and significant precipitation are on their way. 

El Niño and Pool Care: What You Need to Know

The rain that's been dropped on California recently is a mixed blessing. The drought-stricken state has been in need of this moisture for years, and the current onslaught of precipitation will do a fair amount to build up reservoirs, lakes, and other supplies and waterways. Yet the suddenness and severity of El Niño has also created dangers of flash floods, landslides, and other problems that are less dangerous but still a major nuisance. 

Taking proper care of your pool is always made more difficult by heavy storms, and the El Niño weather pattern has brought a series of such storms to the West Coast, with more on the way. Here are a few tips for proper pool care during the El Niño season and any time heavy storms, high winds, and significant precipitation are on their way. 

1. Consider Removing Your Pool Cover During High Winds

This one might seem counter-intuitive; you want to keep dirt, debris, and rainwater out of your pool as much as possible, so keeping it covered seems like a no-brainer. Most pool covers aren't designed to withstand the strong winds El Niño can bring, though, and leaving your pool cover out and exposed can cause it to blow away and lead to other damage—to the cover itself, to furniture and vegetation in your backyard, and possibly to other pool equipment.

And of course, not only does a windborne pool cover have the potential to do all of this damage, but it will also leave your pool just as exposed to the elements as if you'd left the cover off in the first place. You can check with your pool maintenance professional and see if they think your pool cover can withstand the winds, but it's typically best to edge on the side of caution and store the cover somewhere it won't achieve liftoff. 

2. Wait Until After the Storm to Drain Your Inground Pool

Many pool owners find cleanup easier if they start with a dry pool—simply sweep up any leaves, dirt, or other debris that find their way in and you're good to go. You have to drain your pool anyway if it gets too dirty during the storms, so why not get ahead of the game and do a pre-emptive draining?

The problem with dry inground pools is that they're far more susceptible to damage from large storm-blown debris like tree branches. What can be a nuisance to remove from a full, wet pool can cause a major crack and an expensive repair for a dry pool, so keep the water level in your inground pool up at normal operating level to offer the pool surface some protection.

Above-ground pools are a different story, though. These are unfortunately susceptible to damage from flying debris regardless, and a full pool that takes a tree branch through the side can lead to a flooded backyard and house in a matter of minutes. Draining an above ground pool does slightly increase the risk that it will become damaged, but greatly decreases the risk to your home and property should any damage occur—draining your above-ground pool is probably a wise idea.

3. Make Sure Your Yard and Storm Drains are Well Maintained

The better prepared you are in general for the stormy weather, the better your pool will weather the storm. Any vegetation or precarious tree branches should not be removed and carted away and the yard should be kept as clean as possible—not just immediately around the pool, but around your entire property (and ideally your neighbors' property, too, though we'll leave that discussion up to you).

Water overflowing and running out of your pool is also a concern, of course, so make sure any storm drains or French drains around your property are cleared and flowing smoothly, and continue to check these drains and remove any obstructions regularly as El Niño continues to bring torrential rains your way. A drain that was clear yesterday could easily be plugged up today, and plugged up drains plus an overflowing pool is bad news for your property.

4. Come Up with a Plan of Action for Your Pool Chemical Dosing

You've probably been through a few rainstorms before, so hopefully you have a decent idea of how much organic debris—leaves, branches, dirt, and so on—is going to find its way into your pool. If you know you're expecting so much that simply cleaning and re-dosing isn't going to cut it, and that you'll need to drain your pool and start fresh when the storms have passed, you might want to stop dosing your pool altogether until El Niño is done.

If, on the other hand, you're not expecting too much of a cleanup job and think some skimming and pool vacuuming will be able to rid your pool of foreign matter, there are some extra pool dosing steps you can take now to make rebalancing your pool's chemical composition easier down the line.

First, consider an anti-algae agent—or increasing your anti-algae dosage if you already use one—to combat all of the new spores that will be introduced to your pool by the storms. Like bacteria, algae is everywhere, and even if your pool stays sparkling clean as El Niño blows through, the rainwater itself will introduce some extra organic material into your pool. Does your pool know to prevent things from breeding, and you'll find you need less dosing when the storm is done.

Similarly, you might want to try a "shock" treatment of extra chlorine and chlorine-protective chemicals both now and when El Niño is done, as this will help maintain and restore the proper chemical balance in your pool better than trying to adjust normal dosages throughout the stormy season. Ongoing pool chemical monitoring is still important, of course, but expect to see some wider swings in chemical levels, pH, and alkalinity while your pool is being subjected to a chaotic and changing environment.

Eventually things will return to normal and you can get back to enjoying your pool. Follow these El Niño pool maintenance tips, and getting your pool back should be quick, easy, and affordable. 

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