U.S. Coast Guard warns of hazardous conditions during early season boating on St. Lawrence River, Lake Ontario

State News

ALEXANDRIA BAY, N.Y. (WWTI) — As the North Country is experiencing summer- like temperatures this week, many are eager to get out on the water. 

However, officials are reminding local boaters that conditions on the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario are still considered dangerous this time of year.

Discussing what the U.S. Coast Guard calls a “shoulder season,” United States Coast Guard Alexandria Bay Station Senior Chief Peter Nelson addressed the most dangerous factor of being on the water in early spring. 

“It looks nice out there, the air temperature is nice and warm, but the water is still extremely cold and extremely dangerous,” stated Nelson. “Accidental immersion into the cold water, anything below 60 degrees, can cause a person to unintentionally gasp for air; hyperventilate. If your head is underwater when that happens you can drown rather quickly.”

Nelson urged boaters to continue to follow normal boater safety guidelines such as storing the proper and required equipment on board, wearing weather appropriate clothing and alertly watching weather conditions.

Additionally, he cautioned boaters to be on the look out for anything that could be floating under the water. This could include tires, discarded items or even full trees in the spring season.

But Nelson emphasized one of the Coast Guard’s most prioritized safety rule: wearing a life jacket.

Regardless of the season, we always recommend wearing a light jacket at all times,” urged Nelson. “Nearly 85% of all drowning victims were not wearing a life jacket. So, if you fall in the water when it’s as cold as it is, it’s going to have a significant impact on your ability to stay afloat.”

Adding, “so make sure you don’t just have your life jacket in your boat, but you are wearing it this time of year.”

According to the U.S. Coast Guard, required items all boaters must store on their vessels include the following:

  • Personal flotation devices
  • Visual distress signals
  • Sound producing devices
  • Backfire flame arrestors
  • Ventilation
  • Navigation lights
  • Pollution regulators
  • Marine sanitation devices

For a full list of required items, visit the United States Coast Guard website.

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