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What To Do When Severe Weather Strikes While Boating

LAKE MINNETONKA, Minn. (WCCO) - The weather in Minnesota can change in an instant, so people planning to boat over the Memorial Day weekend need to be prepared.

Whether on a land or on the water, things don't always go as planned.

"Once you are out there you never know what could happen," Sky to Shore owner Skyler Hietala said.

Four years ago, his boat broke down in the middle of Lake Minnetonka.

"I got stuck out here for about eight hours and didn't have a way to get off," Hietala said.

He started his boat towing company and said Memorial Day weekend is always a busy one. On Friday alone, he said he received six calls for service.

"Tried to turn the boat on, and it didn't start, so pretty telltale sign something is wrong," boater Presley Norby said.

She was among those who needed a tow on Lake Minnetonka Saturday. But if you're on the water when severe weather hits, help might be a ways away.

Experts say the best advice is to plan ahead and check the forecast before you head on the water.

"It gets really windy, and there's low visibility, which is the hardest thing. You can't see oncoming boats or boats 10 feet in front of you," Hietala said.

Hietala said, ideally, head to the nearest public landing. At Lake Minnetonka, he said they are evenly dispersed around the lake and there should be one within a five minute distance.

"If you are planning on driving through it, stay closer to shore. That way, if you do break down or lightning strikes, you won't be in deep water," he said.

If visibility is poor, he said it might be best to wait it out and put down an anchor.

"A lot of people are really friendly out here, so if there is a storm, people are very understanding if you need to, if there's an emergency go to someone's dock and park up and tie down and wait for the storm to pass," he said.

It's also important to put on life jackets during changing weather conditions. Minnesota law requires all people under the age of 10 to wear a lifejacket when a vessel is moving. Everyone else on board must have a lifejacket readily accessible.


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