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Spring is the time of year when enthusiasts around the country hit the water for another boating season. Due to melting ice and snow in northern parts of the U.S., it’s also the time of year when flooding and high water levels can cause additional dangers.

The NOAA recently released its predictions, and according to its experts, rivers in half of the continental U.S. are at minor or moderate risk of exceeding flood levels this spring, with the highest threat in the southern Great Lakes region. Elevated risk is also expected in the northern tier of the U.S. from Montana eastward to New England.

Minor flooding is possible in the Northeast, the lower Mississippi River basin and across the entire Southeast up to Virginia, including east Texas and parts of Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia and the Florida panhandle. In these areas, spring flood risk is highly dependent on rainfall.

How can you keep safe in such conditions? First of all, be sure to keep an eye on the water levels in your area and plan accordingly. If the Coast Guard is calling for flooding in your area, stay at the dock. When water levels are higher, it’s likely that currents also will be. If you do head out, go slow and stay clear of areas where currents can create danger — such as around bridges, dams and shoals.

Submerged and floating objects are another hazard that are more frequent during spring floods and high water. “Open water,” contrary to what it sounds like, does not mean unobstructed water. Even coastal waters near the shore can carry debris that has been washed downstream. Again, slow down. Mind your cruising guides and charts to see where potential debris may be present.

Appoint a proper lookout to scan the waters ahead of your boat. Two sets of eyes are always better than one. If you’re towing a skier, wakeboarder or tuber, stay far away from the shore, where submerged objects may have lodged themselves just below the surface.

Lastly, make sure that your bilge pumps are working, in the event that you hit an object and begin taking on water. It’s always a good idea to keep a backup pump handy, even if it’s a manual hand-pump.

The key is staying alert and preparing to be ready for any eventuality. It can happen in a hurry.

United Marine Underwriters is more than just boat insurance. Browse our Boats For Sale at BoatBrowser or our Lake Resource Guide at LakeBrowser or share your fishing stories and photos at True Fish Tales – the ones that did not get away.

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