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Heavy rains should caution boaters

​HARRISBURG — With heavy rain and winds affecting eastern portions of Pennsylvania due to Tropical Storm Fay, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) encourages boaters to use added caution on and around the water this weekend and throughout the Atlantic hurricane season.

“The key to staying safe is to plan ahead,” said Ryan Walt, PFBC Boating and Watercraft Safety Manager. “Check the forecast before you head out and be aware that heavy rains can lead to immediate flash flooding and cause water to rise to unsafe levels for several days following a storm. If there is any question about the safety of your boating trip due to weather, don’t go.”

In addition to areas experiencing severe weather, boaters should be aware that storm impacts can also carry downstream to waterways that did not experience any precipitation. Boaters, especially paddlers on canoes and kayaks, should refrain from entering high, fast-moving, and muddy water that offers low visibility and can prevent operators from seeing submerged obstacles like large rocks, downed tree limbs, and other debris.

Boaters who are considering heading out onto the water should familiarize themselves with the waterway in advance. Map out your trip and create a float plan that includes several places you can stop along the way for a break, check the local forecast, and if needed, ride out a passing storm. Heavy winds can make paddling more difficult when you are trying to get yourself off the water.

“Wear a life jacket,” added Walt. “Unfortunately, we have recorded several boating-related fatalities this summer, and none of the victims were wearing life jackets. We have seen these tragedies happen in even the most favorable of conditions, so boaters should take even stronger precautions around periods of inclement weather.”

According to PFBC boating accident reports, roughly 80% of all boating fatalities occur annually because boaters were not wearing life jackets. Boaters can add an extra layer of protection by investing in a portable NOAA weather radio. The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 through Nov. 30.

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