HARRISBURG, PA — While the late spring and early summer seasons are filled with amazing opportunities to get out on the water, Pennsylvania anglers and boaters are reminded that frequent and often powerful storms can create potentially dangerous water conditions.
“This time of year is a favorite for many of us to get outdoors because of the cool mornings, warm days, and beautiful scenery,” said Ryan Walt, PFBC Boating and Watercraft Safety Manager. “The weather can also be very unpredictable, and you should keep a close eye on the forecast before and during your trip so you can get out of harm’s way in the event of a storm.”
According to Jeff Jumper, State Meteorologist for the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA), thunderstorms can be very isolated. A late spring or early summer storm can deliver damaging, strong winds, rain or hail to one area while having little or no impact on areas just a few miles away.
“That can be problematic for boaters or even anglers wading in a creek or river,” said Jumper. “Areas impacted directly by the storm may experience high, fast-moving water almost immediately. Those impacts can also carry downstream to waterways that did not experience any precipitation.”
Jumper says even storms that do not produce much rain can produce powerful winds capable of breaking tree limbs or blowing other debris into waterways that can present a safety hazard. Plus, all thunderstorms can create dangerous lightning, which can strike anywhere. He says if you can hear thunder, you’re close enough to be struck. Lightning can strike ten miles away or more from the storm and waterways do not provide safe shelter.
While high and fast-moving water can be dangerous for watercraft of all sizes, operators of unpowered boats, such as canoes and kayaks, can be especially at risk during a storm.
“Heavy winds can make paddling more difficult when you’re trying to get yourself off the water,” said Walt. “Prepare yourself for inclement weather by becoming familiar with your 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.”
Both Walt and Jumper say boaters can add an extra layer of protection by investing in a portable NOAA weather radio, visiting the Severe Thunderstorm Safety page at www.ready.pa.gov, and wearing a life jacket at all times, regardless of weather conditions. According to PFBC boating accident reports, roughly 80% of all boating fatalities occur annually because boaters were not wearing life jackets.
To learn more about boating in Pennsylvania , including complete rules and regulations, registration and title information, how to find great places to boat near you, how file a boating accident report and answers to other frequently asked questions (FAQs), visit the Boating Basics page on the PFBC website.
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