Local News

Week Focuses on Boating Safety

Posted May 10, 1997 12:00 a.m. EDT

— With summer boating activities about to get into full swing, the week preceding Memorial Day is observed as National Boating Safety Week. This season, however, the state's lakes can be more dangerous than usual.

It's one more legacy of Hurricane Fran, the storm that pounded North Carolina the night of September 5. Trees were knocked down in a wide swath -- but they not only fell in backyards and along roads, they also toppled into lakes and rivers.

That debris, combined with unusually high water levels in the lakes due to heavy rains, can create waterborne obstacle courses. According to Lt. Randy Thomas, a North Carolina wildlife officer, if a boat running at high speed smashes into one of these tree trunks or limbs, the damage can be severe -- or possibly fatal to the boating party.

Some objects may be floating, while others were driven vertically into the substrata of the lakebed and are still held tight.

Boaters are advised to take it slowly at first, especially if they are not familiar with the waterway. And choppy water adds to the difficulty; it makes it harder to discern objects ahead.

A number of trees and branches have been pulled from lakes and rivers; others remain hidden, a constant hazard for people who are just out to enjoy the water and the lazy summer days.

Twenty-one people died last year on the state's waterways, five of them from navigating hazardous water.