Coast Guard issues safety advisory after bad weather in Northeast

BOSTON – The Coast Guard and state recreational boating specialists are advising boaters to exercise extreme caution while boating or paddling on the rivers, creeks and streams of western and central New England and eastern New York.

Heavy rains over this past week have pushed some waterways to the flood stage, which creates stronger than usual currents and unexpected turbulence.

Al Johnson, the First Coast Guard District’s recreational boating safety specialist, warns small boaters and paddlers to be high water wary.

“When heavy rains push waters to the flood stage, it drastically alters the characteristics of the water and covers normally exposed hazards and debris,” said Johnson. “This creates strainers, unforeseen eddies and rips which can easily capsize the most experienced of boaters and paddlers.”

This past Sunday, nine kayakers launched on a rain-swollen creek in eastern New York and as soon as they were on the water they all capsized in the fast moving current. Fortunately they were all safely rescued.

“All nine members of the group were reported to be wearing lifejackets,” said Ro Woodard, boating safety educator New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation – Marine Services Bureau. “With an accident involving so many individuals swamped in the dangerously fast waters and no loss of life, it’s a happy ending to what might have been a truly tragic outing. I believe that their choice to wear their lifejackets made all the difference.”

“The important thing in high water conditions is to assess the risk and if the conditions exceed your level of expertise or if you’re not properly prepared– don’t go,” said Johnson.

Johnson recommends boaters wear a life jacket at all times when they are on the water.

“Here in the Northeast over 80 percent of our recreational boating and paddling fatalities are the result of capsizing or falling overboard,” said Johnson. “Life jackets really do save lives so, if you don’t want to wear one for yourself, wear it for the loved ones you wouldn’t want to leave behind.”

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