Monday, January 30th, 2023
Monday, January 30th, 2023

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NV: Summer storms pose dangers for boaters

The powerful thunderstorm that blew through Southern Nevada
during the July 4 holiday weekend left unwary boaters stranded and
had emergency personnel tied up for hours while providing needed
assistance. Storms such as this develop very quickly and are
characterized by sudden violent changes in the weather, including
high winds, lightning and heavy rain.

“Each of these by themselves can create danger for boaters, but
add them together and boaters are in real trouble,” said Capt.
David Pfiffner, boating law administrator for the Nevada Department
of Wildlife (NDOW). “Many people, especially those who are new to
the desert or are here on vacation just don’t realize how fast
desert thunderstorms come up. These unsuspecting boaters are often
taken by surprise and that can lead to some very real safety

The Lower Colorado River system is considered to be one of the
busiest recreational waterways in the country. Over the July 4
holiday weekend alone, the Lake Mead National Recreation Area
welcomed nearly 108,000 visitors. Unfortunately, through the years
several people have lost their lives in weather related boating
accidents along this stretch of the river. Swamped boats are a
significant problem during the summer months, and not only pose a
danger to passengers but also to responding game wardens and other
emergency responders. Oftentimes the victims are not wearing their
life jackets when an accident occurs.

“When caught by a storm, the first thing a boater should do – if
they aren’t wearing it already — is put on their lifejacket. The
next thing is to look for a protected location, such as a cove, in
which to ride out the storm,” said Pfiffner. What boaters don’t
want to do is try to outrun the storm to the marina.

Heavy rains associated with thunderstorm activity can lead to
flash floods, which can wash large amounts of debris into
waterways. Boat operators should watch for floating debris that
might damage their boat or cause a serious accident.

Pfiffner recommends checking the weather forecast before leaving
home. In additional to the local newscast, the National Weather
Service is a source of weather related information. To access the
organization’s weather forecasts simply enter National Weather
Service followed by the location of interest in your online search
engine. It’s also important to monitor the weather for any changes
while you are in the outdoors. A good rule of thumb is to keep an
eye to the sky. When thunderheads build up on the horizon, it’s
probably time to head in.

Changes in the weather generally come from the west. The list of
warning signs includes wind shifts, thunderheads building up in the
distance, increasingly choppy waters, swelling waves and a drop in
barometric pressure.

The Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) protects, restores and
manages fish and wildlife, and promotes fishing, hunting, and
boating safety. NDOW’s wildlife and habitat conservation efforts
are primarily funded by sportsmen’s license and conservation fees
and a federal surcharge on hunting and fishing gear. Support
wildlife and habitat conservation in Nevada by purchasing a
hunting, fishing, or combination license. For more information,


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