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Storms at Lake Pleasant provide cautionary tale

Posted 7/24/17

A photo still from MCSO body camera footage. By Philip Haldiman, Independent Newsmedia

First responders rescued about 15 people from rough waters, and a slew of damage was left in the wake of …

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Storms at Lake Pleasant provide cautionary tale

A photo still from MCSO body camera footage.
By Philip Haldiman, Independent Newsmedia

First responders rescued about 15 people from rough waters, and a slew of damage was left in the wake of winds and heavy rainfall that pummeled Lake Pleasant the weekend of July 14.

A 10-lane boat ramp broke free and floated into the bay, leaving four boats submerged and multiple others damaged during the storm. Add to the list power outages and a breach in the marina fuel pump that led to 100 gallons of fuel spilled into the lake — a weekend resulting $1,000s in property damage.

The wreckage has left the Maricopa County Sheriff’s office warning residents about the dangers of monsoon season.

“Boaters, swimmers, and anyone using our lakes and parks needs to be prepared for severe storms, especially in the late afternoon,” Sheriff Paul Penzone said. “This is the season for intense weather events. Check your forecasts often and be especially careful late in the day as these systems move into the Valley.”

During one of the storms, a woman paddle-boarding was taken to a hospital with possible life-threatening injuries. She stabilized and was released after treatment.

Josh Hoffman, boating safety education coordinator for the Arizona Game and Fish Department, said boating and paddle-boarding is permitted at the lake but when violent storms strike, it is tough to compete with high water and winds.

All vessels except sailboards and certain racing shells or rowing skulls must have at least one wearable life jacket that is U.S. Coast Guard approved and of the proper size for each person on board.

All children 12 years old and younger must wear a life jacket at all times on any vessel.

Lake Pleasant is known as a great place for outdoor recreation and activities. But whether you’re out on a boat, weather is a critical factor that everyone must pay attention to,” Mr. Hoffman said. “If severe weather is likely or storms are appearing nearby, it’s a good time to safely get off of the water and move indoors.”

The Arizona Game and Fish Department provides boater safety school throughout the state online and in a classroom setting for a small fee.

The U.S. Coast Guard also provides this service. However, MCSO spokesman Sgt. Calbert Gillet said that any person 12 years old and older can operate a watercraft on any public body of water in this state without any watercraft safety training.

Mr. Gillett added that monsoons do come with a warning — growing, dark clouds and blowing, high winds. When a monsoon is about to strike, first the national weather service provides radio, television and cellular alerts and warnings. Mr. Gillett said there are strobe wind warning beacons on two islands at Lake Pleasant to warn swimmers, and there are signs at the north and south entrances of the lake explaining the function of these lights. Deputies will also warn people who are attempting to go out on the water if they are in the area when a storm is about to strike, he said.

“However, we cannot stop people from recreation on the lake due to a storm,” he said. “The initial part of the storm is usually the worst and most damaging. If you are unable to travel across the lake due to a storm, get to the nearest sheltered cove and wait it out. The storm will subside in a few hours. Do not try and outrun the storm to the boat ramp. You will get trapped by the storm at the boat ramp.”

Philip Haldiman can be reached at 623-876-3697 or phaldiman@newszap.com. Continue the discussion at yourwestvalley.com.



Storm blow-by-blow
There were multiple rescues and property damage as a result of storms, July 14-15 at Lake Pleasant. Here is the blow-by-blow.

July 14
Two women paddle boarding were knocked into the water during the thunderstorm and were rescued sheriff’s Deputies in a patrol boat. Three juveniles in a wave runner personal water craft were hit by storms at Fireman’s Cove. A family member rescued one and lake patrol deputies secured the other two. All were evaluated and did not require additional medical treatment.
• High winds and choppy water caused damage to boats and docks.
• Power outage at the Operations Center and Scorpion Bay Marina
• Roof partially ripped off from atop the restaurant at Scorpion Bay Marina
• Breakwater broken loose and floating free
• Concrete breakwater flipped upside down
• Boat lift in the MCSO boat house damaged

July 15
Ten people were pulled from the water, none with any significant injuries. High winds and rough water that lasted for 30 minutes caused a variety of property damage. In addition to Lake Patrol, deputies from District Three, District Four, K-9, MCSO Fox aircraft and local fire departments and medics responded to the storms.
• The 10-lane boat ramp broke free and floated off into the bay; four boats sunk, a fifth beached after becoming partially submerged, and multiple other boats were damaged during the storm.
• A breach in the Marina fuel pump caused about 100 gallons of fuel to spill into the lake before containment systems initiated.