Lake of the Ozarks expecting large crowds for holiday weekend
LAKE OF THE OZARKS, Mo. (KMIZ)
The Lake of the Ozarks is preparing for increased boating traffic for the first big summer holiday, Memorial Day.
The lake averages between 10-15 million visitors each year during the summer holidays, according to the Water Safety Council. This year should be no different as officials expect huge numbers this weekend.
"This one is very very busy because the weather is so great and people have had cabin fever for two years," Bob May, of the Water Safety Council, said. "They're going to come."
The Lake of the Ozarks currently has more than 185,000 boats on the water. It is one of the reasons that 50% of all boating incidents in Missouri occur at the Lake of the Ozarks.
"At any given time on the water on a weekend or a holiday we’ll have over 100 thousand boats on the water at one time," Douglas Beck, the president of the Captain's Association of Missouri, said.
With heavy lake traffic this weekend taking the proper safety measures is important. The lake of the ozarks averages about 80 feet deep and Beck says there's a lot of hidden obstacles and hazards in the water
Mile marker 6, 19 and 31 see the most accidents.
"Prepare for somebody flying out of a cove," May advised. "We got a 1300 miles of shoreline so there is a lot of lake for everyone to enjoy. find some areas where it’s not so congested."
Its important to have an extra set of eyes paying attention to the what is behind the boat. One of the largest causes of injuries is from propellers. Paying attention to orange flags indicating there are people in the water and turning the engine off when picking up passengers in the water can be the difference between life and death.
"That’s one of the biggest injuries that occurs here at the lake. at any lake or river is prop injuries. people will board a boat while the engine is running and they get caught up in the prop and that’s just devastating," Beck said.
The easiest way to stay safe is by wearing a life jacket.
"Wear a lifejacket when you're out on the water because that life will be yours that you save," Beck added.
The lake usually sees a higher number of incidents on weekends. In 2019, Missouri saw 42 deaths in accidental drownings in state waters. The majority of these incidents occurred on weekends with 33 deaths occurring on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday, according to a report from the Department of Public Safety Missouri State Highway Patrol
According to the U.S. Coast Guard, 86% of drowning victims were not wearing a life jacket. Missouri law requires all children younger than 7 years old to wear a life jacket at all times while on a boat.
The Water Safety Council also says that it is important to inspect all equipment before hitting the lake, including batteries, first aid kits, tool kits, docking lines, bumpers and fire extinguishers.
"Federal rules for boats 26 feet and less in length require the operator to have an engine cut-off lanyard or fob in use while underway to prevent boat strike injuries in the event the operator is thrown overboard," the Council says. "Boaters as they arrive at the lake should make sure the drain plug is in before launch. Before starting the motor, if equipped, the blower should be run for several minutes to remove fuel vapor. When on the water, boaters should be courteous and observe right-of-way rules. Getting off to a good start is important to enjoying time on the water.”