Summer weather on the water can be tricky. One minute you’re enjoying a calm, sunny day, but rain and storms can appear as if out of nowhere even when the forecast looks clear.
Weather.com says that pop-up summer storms are some of the hardest weather patterns to predict. “Most meteorologists would agree summer is the most challenging time of year to forecast the chance of rain,” meteorologist Brian Donegan writes. “There is typically plenty of moisture and instability to help fuel the development of scattered showers and thunderstorms, particularly in the South.” That erratic development can be even more difficult to chart over bodies of water like lakes and rivers popular with local boaters.
If you do get struck by a sudden downpour while out on the water, there are precautions you can take to keep yourself safe long enough for the quick storm to pass.
Try to take shelter on shore
If you think there may be an issue with pop-up storms during your trip, it might be a good idea to stay close to your dock or another spot with easy access to quickly tie up the boat and take shelter indoors. If you’re further out you can try to quickly make it back if your boat is fast enough; if you’re in a slower boat and can’t make it to the dock in time, you may be better off riding the storm out in a cove near shore to avoid the choppiest water in the middle of the lake.
Keep yourself and your devices dry
If your boat has a top, put it up at the first sign of incoming rain and make sure it’s tightly secured. Put phones and other electronics in a safe dry spot to prevent water damage. Collect everything that could blow away in strong gusts of wind to stow in a safe place like under-seat storage so none of your belongings end up in the water.
Beware of lightning on the lake
The good news is many pop-up storms around the lakes in our region don’t often include heavy lightning. If your boat is fast enough, you should get back to the dock as quickly as possible and head indoors; if you do get caught in a lightning storm, take every precaution available to keep yourself and your boat-mates safe. Make sure everybody is out of the water immediately at the first sign of lightning and bring any fishing lines aboard. Stay away from metal railings and take off jewelry or anything metal you may be wearing. Disconnect the power and turn off any unnecessary electronics on the boat. Stay as low as possible until the lightning stops.
Other boat safety precautions
Your boat should always be equipped with at least one approved safety vest for each person riding, which everyone should put on as soon as the wind picks up and the water starts getting choppy. In case visibility is low you should also keep a safety whistle, air horn, or a flare gun on board to signal for help. You should always have a tow rope in case you or another boater need to be pulled in to dock.
Always watch the weather!
The most important thing you can do is be prepared ahead of time! Always keep an eye on the most recent up-to-date weather information so you know if storms are headed in before you even leave the dock.