Tropical Storm Fay may put a damper on Labor Day festivities, if celebrating includes boating. This year, because of torrential rains from the storm, the water in canals, rivers, lakes and other bodies of water has risen. This has caused hazardous conditions for boaters, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is urging them to be extra careful this holiday weekend.
The elevated water has submerged objects, which prior to the storm, were above the water's surface. In addition to the usual precautions, the FWC is urging boaters to be watchful for hazards, such as posts, tree stumps and markers, which were visible prior to the storm.
"The waterways and lakes which are so familiar to many of us may now be unrecognizable following Tropical Storm Fay," said Capt. Richard Moore of the FWC's Boating and Waterways Section. "Objects that were obvious prior to the storm are now under water. Boaters should exercise extreme caution this Labor Day weekend and be mindful of the additional hazards."
Levees, dams and other water-control structures may create unpredictable water movement. Boaters and swimmers should avoid these areas. Some areas on rivers and lakes may be closed or have temporary restricted zones enacted because of hazardous conditions.
Often, accidents are caused by inattentiveness of the operator. Most boating accident fatalities are men, and most accidents involve a single vessel. Most boating accident victims die from drowning. So far this year, 29 of the 40 of the deaths in boating accidents are attributed to drowning. Many drowning deaths could have been avoided had the victims been wearing life jackets.
"We always encourage boaters to wear life jackets all of the time while under way," Moore said. "These potentially hazardous conditions highlight the importance of wearing a life jacket. If a boater strikes a submerged object, he or she can easily and unexpectedly be thrown into the water."
To learn more about new lightweight and comfortable styles of life jackets and for other helpful boating information, visit the Wear It Florida Web site at www.WearItFlorida.com.
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