High Winds cause Safety Concerns for Water Enthusiasts in Huron County

PORT AUSTIN TOWNSHIP, MI – Beginning yesterday afternoon, Saturday June 10th, 2017, around 3:00pm, Huron County Sheriff’s Deputies and the Caseville Fire Department responded to incidents in the Port Austin Twp. area that involved fisherman and kayakers being overtaken by strong southwesterly winds.

[Huron County Sheriffs Deputies Atwell and Homrich greeting a distressed kayaker who had a difficult time making it back to shore in the face of a 25 to 30 mph southwest wind. He came to shore nearly a half mile from where he launched from in order to get his vehicle because of the high winds]

One incident involved a floating fishing platform in the Eagle Bay area with individuals on it. They had been overtaken by wind and blown out into the open water of Lake Huron. Our Deputies responded from Port Austin in Patrol Boat #150 arriving on scene shortly after a private boater did. The fishermen and platform were then taken into the Grindstone Harbor without further incident.

Deputies had to clear the scene as that incident was ending because of a call from a kayaker about a half mile north of the Port Austin Break wall. She stated she had capsized her kayak and was standing in the water unable to move because she feared deeper water surrounded her.

Due to the shallower rocky area of water she was in, on top of the strong winds producing 3 and 4 foot waves, Huron County Sheriff’s Deputies were unable to use their 31’ Patrol Boat for the situation.

The Caseville Fire Department was called to assist with their smaller Zodiac inflatable rescue boat. The 40 year old Milford woman was then retrieved and brought back to shore where Thumb Ambulance personnel were awaiting to check her out because of the long time of exposure to the 60 degree water she awaited in. She was later released.

While that woman was being checked out, Deputies and Firemen witnessed 2 other kayaks capsize about an eighth of a mile from them, with 2 others about a quarter mile from them having a difficult time paddling against the strong wind. This forced a redeployment of resources. The capsized kayakers were able to make it to shore but the other kayakers were fatigued and had to be assisted to shore. Finally at around 7:00pm, all responders were able to clear the scene.

Yesterday’s incidents were another example of bad judgment being exercised in the use of kayaks on the open waters of Lake Huron. Although all fortunately had life jackets and some had cell phones, while 1 lost their cell phone in a capsize, safety was overlooked by inexperienced kayakers. Wind speeds out of the southwest exceeded 25 mph yesterday which made it seem easy going out but very difficult to return, if not capsizing in the process.

Today will likely have similar conditions and those wanting to enjoy kayaks on the open waters of Huron County today are advised to stay in sheltered areas such as a harbor.

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