Weather safety on the water

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CULLMAN, Ala. – With summer settling in for the long, hot foreseeable future, many residents are taking to area lakes for some fun in the sun. The Tribune spoke with Cullman County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) Director Phyllis Little, who offered advice about the importance of being weather aware while out on the water.

“You definitely don’t want to be sitting out in the middle of the lake when there’s lightning,” she said. “They need to check the weather report for the day and they also need to have some way of getting weather alerts when they’re on the water. Most anywhere on Smith Lake you can get phone service; if they download a good dependable app to their phone that would give them weather alerts, that would be great. Most TV stations have those that would actually either talk out to you and say ‘Lightning has been detected within 5 miles of your location’ or it will actually do an alarm similar to what a weather radio does and alert you. There are a lot of smart phone apps out there, some are free, some are a one-time cost, and then there’s others that you can do subscriptions for. People really need to have something like that if they’re going to be out on the water, whether it be fishing or just boating or any kind of recreation at or around the water.”

So what should you do if you’re caught off-guard by bad weather on the water?

Little recommended, “I would suggest they find somewhere to get out of the water (if they can’t get to shore) and get off of that boat and under cover. The water is just not where you want to be. You’re the high mark out on that water. They need to find somewhere to get out of that boat and to get under a shelter, and they need to do that as quickly as possible.”

She added, “The main thing is they need to have some sort of way of getting weather alerts while they’re there. If they’re leaving early in the morning, they need to check the weather report for the entire day in the area that they’re going to. You need to check that more than one time during the day; it can change in a matter of a few minutes to a few hours. Then they need to be on the lookout for places they can take shelter that would get them off the water and know how to get there pretty quick, and not wait until the lightning is there. When they get alerts that there’s lightning in the area, they need to get off the water, because lightning can actually strike as far as 10 to 20 miles ahead of a line of storms.”

To sum it up, Little said, “Know what the weather’s going to do and get off the water.”

For more information on weather awareness and lightning safety awareness, visit www.weather.gov/iln/lightningsafetyweek.

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