Coast Guard warns of record rainfall and hazards of Lake Erie

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CLEVELAND – As the summer boating season heats up across Northeast Ohio, the U.S. Coast Guard is reminding boaters about the danger on Lake Erie. Excessive rain has created a unique problem: record-high water levels.

“With that comes the dangers of certain objects that are submerged below the water line and they wouldn’t normally be,” said Petty Officer Brian McCrum. “So, break walls that are flooded over, so people hitting rocks, objects that they can’t see.”

Petty Officer McCrum says the water is at least 16 inches higher than normal, creating an additional danger for boaters on the lake.

“Hit a log, I think,” said boater Rick Orrill, recalling an accident. “It was 500 dollars worth of damage on the props; I was lucky I didn’t bend the shaft. Pretty dangerous out here.”

The Coast Guard says last year they recorded a record number of deaths in the region.

“2018 was actually record high drownings for the Great Lakes region. We had over 100; around 120 people die on the Great Lakes,” said Petty Officer McCrum.

He says despite the excessive heat Friday, the lake still has a chill to the touch.

“Even thought it’s 85 degrees out, 90 degrees, the water temperature does not equate air temperatures,” he explained. “That’s what most people don’t realize and what leads to the majority of the drownings.”

The Coast Guard reminds boaters not to operate a boat under the influence and to make sure to wear life jackets while on the lake.

“A life jacket is like a seat belt, so you know you can’t reach for it after the accident,” said Petty Officer McCrum. “It’s too late at that point.”

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Parks and Watercraft reported 18 deadly Ohio boating accidents in 2018. There were 20 deaths the year prior. So far this year four deadly boating deaths have been reported.

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