Lake officials warn of troubled waters ahead without life-saving precautions

“Crashes, boat accidents. You name it it can happen out here.”
Published: Jun. 2, 2023 at 5:12 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 2, 2023 at 6:17 PM EDT
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CORNELIUS, N.C. (WBTV) - For anybody hoping to pull their boat out of storage for the first time this summer, last weekend was a complete washout. Heavy rains all three days during Memorial Day weekend proved too much for most to venture out on the area lakes. Now with better weather moving in Lake Norman is expecting huge crowds, but officials are warning while you can have fun, not taking the right precautions could end in disaster.

There wasn’t a lot of activity out on the water at Blythe Landing this morning. The only thing floating around here was a group of ducks.

“There’s really not a lot of people out here today, I’m kind of surprised by that.”

Matthew Peine who is with Charlotte Stormwater was tucked away by himself hoping to hand out some information to big crowds about spotting lake pollution. But the only thing he was spotting was an empty parking lot.

“It is kind of weird, I’m just trying to keep my hopes up.” Peine said.

Others coming by who have been living the lake life for decades say they’re gearing up for a wild summer ahead.

“One time somebody drove a boat up on I-77 from the lake.” Marc Scott a local resident said.

His spouse Gwynne Scott says she doesn’t even go out on the water during those high-capacity times.

“There’s just too many people that have just gotten new boats and really don’t know the rules of the water.” she explained.

And enforcing those rules falls on the area lake patrols like the ones up in Cornelius.

“Crashes, boat accidents. You name it it can happen out here.”

George Brinzey is with the Lake Patrol. He said there were nine drownings out on Lake Norman last year. Most could have been prevented if proper precautions like wearing a life vest would have been taken.

“If you don’t have it on and disaster strikes there’s no way to put it on fast enough.” Brinzey said.

Another issue is with untrained skippers. The rule is if you own a boat you have to be licensed, but rent one on the lake and there are no hard and fast rules. Brinzey says it could end up like the wild west out here.

“We urge you to find a reputable charter that has an approved permit through the Lake Norman marine commission.” said.

So whether you’re on a motorized surfboard, a jetski, or a yacht owner, long time boaters say it’s attention to detail that could make the difference between a fun time and disaster.

“The one sad thing you hear year-after-year is that another boater has drowned in the lake, and a life jacket could have been the difference between life and death.” Michael Houser said.

If you’re looking for more safety advice, they’ve got boaters books with all the information you need. Just go onto the Marine Commission’s website for more.