Local boaters are being reminded that thunderstorms and severe weather can quickly spell trouble for those on the water.

The National Weather Service says thunderstorms can be a mariner’s worst nightmare, hence boaters are advised to use extra caution when thunderstorm conditions exist but also have a plan of escape. Storms can develop quickly, creating dangerous wind and wave conditions but also lightning and torrential downpours.

Warning Coordination Meteorologist Rich Pollman with the NWS White Lake Office says summer is a great time to be on the lake and enjoy Michigan weather, as well as all outdoor recreation activities, but thunderstorms do pose a hazard to boaters. Pollman tells WHMI lightning does tend to strike the tallest object and if you’re out on the lake, you are the tallest object. He says it’s important to stay ahead of the storm and as soon as you hear the first clap of thunder, that’s your last warning sign. Pollman says lightning can arch out of a thunderstorm five to ten miles away from the rain area, so that’s why when you hear thunder you’re within the target range of the storm - it doesn’t have to be raining. Pollman says thunder is one of nature’s last warning signs, telling you to get to safe harbor, the shoreline and indoors to a permanent structure.

He advises those out on the water always pay attention to the forecast and radar, noting there are plenty of cell phone apps available for inland lakes. Boaters should also keep in mind that thunderstorms are usually brief so waiting it out is better than riding it out. If a boat happens to have a cabin, then those aboard should stay inside and avoid touching metal or electrical devices. For those that don’t, stay as low as possible in the boat. The National Weather Service says ultimately, boating safety begins ashore with planning and training so if there is the threat of thunderstorms or severe weather, it’s best to avoid venturing out. (JM)