MARSHALL COUNTY, Ala. – Alabama Law Enforcement Agency marine division troopers said that there have already been several incidents this year because more and more people are getting into the water sooner, likely because of COVID-19.
They said they expect those large crowds to continue throughout Memorial Day weekend.
“Kids were out of school, so everybody said, we got to get outside, so they all went into the water,” said marine patrol officer Gary Mobley. “(The) more people you put into an area, the more chances you’ll have in some sort of accident.”
Mobley and marine patrol officer Eric Watson said because many of the accidents are alcohol-related, they will be out in force looking for alcohol.
However, different areas have different rules.
On Guntersville Lake, possession of alcohol is allowed within the Guntersville city limits, not into Marshall or Jackson Counties.
Cherokee County is 100% dry, so there is no alcohol allowed there at all, including on Weiss Lake and Terrapin Creek.
“We’re not out running around on the water on a holiday weekend trying to ruin everybody’s time. We’re trying to keep everybody safe just as if your family were mine,” explained Watson.
“The water will not give you any slack. The water will take your life in a heartbeat,” said Mobley.
Troopers said each boat needs a designated driver, a lookout, legal mirrors to tow skiers, and appropriately sized life jackets.
Children eight and under need to be wearing their life jackets at all times.
“Life jackets save lives. They’re our seatbelts on the water,” said Watson.
Mobley explained to WHNT News 19 that now and throughout Memorial Day weekend, they will also be following CDC guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19, by social distancing, wearing personal protection equipment when needed, and exercising good hygiene.
“We’ve been out working, but instead of just coming along board, we may just set off of it four or five feet off a boat, conduct a boat inspection or talk to operators that way,” said Mobley.
Marine patrol officers are also enforcing social distancing recommendations on areas like boats, docks, and sandbars.
Folks on kayaks or canoes also must have a life jacket onboard.
Any boat 16 or more feet also needs to have a throwable floatation device.