METAIRIE, La. (WGNO)— Many people will celebrate the Fourth of July outdoors on the water, so the U.S. Coast Guard is warning boaters to be careful.
With the threat of inclement weather, USCG members at Station New Orleans say they are hoping accidents on the water can be avoided, but they’re ready to launch their boats at any time.
USCG Lieutenant Jess Gallant says boaters must check the weather before any water excursion.
“If there’s a small craft advisory, which would be issued by NOAA, and that’s usually if winds are sustained over 20 knots, they should probably stay off the water,” said Lt. Gallant, the commanding officer at Station New Orleans. “And then if they have a smaller vessel that they’re not comfortable operating any types of seas or winds, then they probably shouldn’t be going out as well.”
Some boaters say they check the weather on their phones but also use their judgment.
“Whenever we see storms popping up, stuff like that, if we see lightning, we just head home because I don’t want to get struck by lightning,” said Connor Schaefer, an avid boater.
According to data from the Coast Guard, 76% of boating-related fatalities are drownings, and most of the victims were not wearing life jackets.
“I would suggest all boaters have their life jackets on board, enough for everybody, and if you decide to go swimming, just put on your life jacket,” said Gallant.
Those familiar with the water say a common mistake they see boaters making is drinking while operating a vessel.
“Everyone on the boat should stay sober just for the safety of everyone because like he said, you turn that boat the tiniest bit wrong, you could go flying into the marsh or land that quick,” explained Tyler Sherman, an avid boater.
The Coast Guard also suggests having a float plan, which means you’re telling someone when and where you’re going and when you will return.
It’s also recommended to have things on board to help the Coast Guard locate the boat, like brightly colored life jackets, flares and dye markers.