FORT MYERS, Fla. - One of Florida Fish and Wildlife's jobs before, during and after the storm is to patrol state waterways. From making sure you stay safe, to assisting in recovery efforts, the agency says it's always ready for a storm and you should be too.
While on regular patrol duty, Florida Fish and Wildlife Captain Guy Carpenter and Officer Joanne Adams make sure they take time to educate boaters about hurricane season.
During a patrol stop, a boat owner told Captain Carpenter that before a hurricane, his boat goes on a lift.
"We recommend that you remove your boat or at least get it off the lift and tie it off a little bit better than that because what's going to happen is storm surge is going to come," Captain Carpenter replied back.
Storm surge is something that concerns everyone at FWC.
"You have to remember that storm surge coming in may be eight to 12 feet. That's definitely higher than that bank over there so 12 feet of water going up, taking a boat with it-- may be a ways up into the woods, it may be in someone's house when we find it again. That's actually a common scenario," explained Captain Carpenter.
The best way to avoid damage? Leave town with your boat in tow.
"If [boaters] have the ability to put their boat on a trailer, and roll it to their in-laws in North Georgia which is nowhere near the storm, that would be the safest place," said Carpenter.
But if leaving town with your boat isn't an option, then you should do some things now, on a sunny day to make sure you're prepared. Things like make sure your bilge pump works, get your boat tied off properly and everything that isn't strapped down, take it off your boat and move it indoors. And never ride out the storm on your boat.
After the storm you can count on officers with FWC to keep your belongings safe. When Hurricane Charley passed, Captain Carpenter was patrolling waterways around Punta Gorda.
"We were on the water, in the canal systems up there, keeping folks from looting from the water. They would bring their boats up the canals, sneak into people's backyards, steal their tv's, steal whatever they-- whatever wasn't nailed down basically," he explained.
Officers will also be patrolling areas where it's not safe to return, like around barrier islands. Remember, if you aren't allowed back onto the island by land, you won't be allowed back by water, either.
Before a storm also make sure you have all your important documents in regards to your boat and keep them with you.
For more tips on keeping your boat safe in a storm, click on the following links:
University of Florida - Hurricane Preparedness for Boat Owners
Boat Owners Association of the United States - Hurricane Preparation for Boaters