Boaters face increased water level, speed of river this holiday weekend

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PITTSBURGH - Boaters are facing a dilemma this holiday weekend as conditions along the Allegheny River aren’t ideal due to higher-than-normal water.

Officials told Channel 11’s Jennifer Tomazic on Friday that they will try to stay off the river unless they have to go out. They’re afraid boats could get damaged in the current conditions.

The Allegheny River was flowing faster than usual near Washington’s Landing on Friday. Boaters said the water was 3 to 4 feet higher than normal.

“I was up on the bow, cleaning the exterior of the boat. And just as a safety precaution I am wearing a life jacket. I’ve never done this before, but God forbid I fall in this river,” Chris Oliver said.

Oliver might find himself doing more spring cleaning than summer boating this weekend. He said he hasn’t seen the river this dangerous in the 10 years he’s been boating in Pittsburgh.

“You really don’t have any control. When I was trying to get the boat in a few days ago, it took five guys just to get it in the slip,” Oliver said.

The coast guard told Channel 11 News that all the rain over the last couple of weeks has increased the water level and speed of the river.

“If (debris) hits your hull, that could put a hole right in the boat and before you even know it, you could start to take on water and sink,” Oliver said.

Chief Christopher Blank, with the U.S. Coast Guard, said if you do go out on the water, make sure you have a life jacket and someone to act as a lookout.

“Know where you’re going and have a plan. Let somebody know that you are out, where you’re going and how many people are with you,” Blank said.

Officials expect the water level to drop as the weekend progresses.