Knowing what to do in a storm can save a life

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 22, 2001

Although none have occurred this week, pop-up thunderstorms in Miss-Lou frequently pepper the area in the afternoon/evening hours. The rains force baseball games, tennis matches and golf matches to cancel. They also force Miss-Lou boaters and fishermen off the lakes and rivers. Or at least they should.

Getting caught in a thunderstorm or rain shower could be tragic, with lightning flashing, wind blowing and waves chopping. The difference between living and dying.

Some boaters and fishermen believe they can make it to shore before the elements kick up. But Eddie Roberts, a local fisherman, and Robbie Duthu, a Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries wildlife enforcement captain, beg to differ.

Both know how serious getting caught in a storm can be and offered tips to other boaters on how to avoid being caught in a tight situation.

An AM radio will have static when a storm is on the way, Roberts said. Keeping track of its wind helps, too. In this area, a south or southeasterly wind usually means a storm from the Gulf of Mexico is on its way.

But Duthu said the best thing you could do is wait it out yourself.

&uot;Set times for yourself and parameters for just how far you’re going to push the envelop,&uot; said Duthu.

Roberts said, &uot;Just keep an eye out and make plans. You’ve got time to get back. You can’t fish when you’re dead.&uot;

The best way to save yourself from being caught in a storm is simply keep an eye on the skies. If the gray clouds start forming – no matter in the distance or near you – make plans to get off the water.

&uot;If you’re not watching the clouds, it’s easy to get caught in (a thunderstorm),&uot; Duthu said.

&uot;Seek safe harbor,&uot; said Roberts.

The other thing boaters should do is to make plans. Tell friends or relatives what time you’re leaving and about what time you’ll get back. Give them information such as which boat ramp you’ll be shoving off from, your vehicle and trailer identification number and a boat description. In the event you do get lost on the water, rescue crews can know exactly when and what to look for.

A good lifejacket is also key.

&uot;Make sure you get a good lifejacket,&uot; Duthu said. &uot;The best money can buy. And know how to use it.&uot;

Duthu noted some smaller things may help boaters realize when a big storm is brewing.