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PINE ISLAND, FLORIDA - OCTOBER 02: Residents are evacuated from the island by boats on October 02, 2022 in Pine Island, Florida. Residents are being encouraged to leave because the only road onto the island is impassable and electricity and water remain knocked out after Hurricane Ian passed through the area. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

In the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, the focus of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) remains on search and rescue, cleanup, and the safety of Florida’s residents and visitors. The FWC reminds boaters across the state that the scope of the storm was large and affected both coastal and inland waterways. Some areas are still experiencing high water and flooding and might not be accessible. If you are in affected areas, please stay off the water and out of the way of boats directly involved in storm response.

If you must go on the water, proceed with extreme caution, maintain a safe speed at all times and remember Florida Statutes require all vessel operators to maintain a slow speed (minimum wake) within 300 feet of any emergency vessel when the emergency lights are on. Even if you are familiar with the route and surrounding area, expect to find new underwater hazards, so pay close attention and look out for submerged navigation aids and changes to water depth caused by shifting sands. Storms can cause hazardous water conditions by altering the location and condition of pilings, trees, shoals, sandbars and navigation markers. As always, ensure you and any passengers on board are wearing lifejackets.

If you are on the water after sunset, observe any curfews in place in your area, elevate your awareness and attention to your surroundings, use navigational lights, and remain at a slow speed.

“The FWC takes the quality and safety of our waterways very seriously. We have damaged and submerged navigation markers, displaced vessels and other debris in some waterways that might not be visible. Please use caution.” said FWC Boating and Waterways Section Leader Maj. Rob Beaton. 

Report missing or damaged waterway markers by calling 866-405-2869 or by filling out an online form at MyFWC.com/boating, by clicking “Waterway Management” then “Waterway Markers” and “Reporting Damaged/Missing Waterway Markers.” 

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FWC Boaters

Joe Winner spends his days combing through memes and off beat stories to bring you the side of Florida not always seen.