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Beware of dangerous water conditions after wet weather

HARRISBURG — With a combination of heavy rain, warmer temperatures and accelerated snowmelt forecasted throughout central and eastern portions of Pennsylvania over the next several days, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) encourages boaters, anglers, and hunters using boats to use added caution on and around the water.

“Water levels can rise rapidly under these conditions and become extremely dangerous,” said Tim Schaeffer, PFBC Executive Director. “Heavy rains and snow melt can lead to ice jams and immediate flash flooding, and water levels can remain at unsafe levels for several days. Check the forecast, and if there is any question about the safety of your boating or fishing trip due to weather, please don’t go.”

Boaters and anglers should be aware that the impact of rain and accelerated snow melt can also carry downstream to waterways that did not experience large amounts precipitation. Individuals should be aware of slippery streambank conditions and refrain from entering high, fast-moving, and muddy water that offers low visibility and can conceal submerged obstacles like large rocks and downed tree limbs.

This safety warning is especially timely as Pennsylvanians celebrate the holidays, when many people are expected to receive fishing and boating related gifts.

“You may be anxious to try out your new kayak or fishing rod as soon as you get it, but please consider the risks before hitting the water right now,” said Eric Hussar, PFBC District 5 Commissioner. “Not only will conditions be high and rough, but even on an unseasonably warm winter day, water temperatures are frigid enough to cause cold water shock and hypothermia should you fall in or capsize.”

While the most boating accidents happen during the spring and summer months when the greatest number of people are spending time outside, statistics show that accidents during the winter are more likely to be fatal. According to PFBC boating accident reports, roughly 80% of all boating fatalities occur annually because boaters were not wearing life jackets.

“Please, always wear a life jacket if you are boating, wading, or ice fishing this winter,” said Hussar. “Take even stronger precautions around periods of inclement weather.”

To learn more about boating safety, visit the Water Safety and Wear It Pennsylvania pages on the PFBC website.

To purchase a 2021 fishing license or launch permit, visit www.fishandboat.com.

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