The United States and Canadian coast guards are warning residents and visitors against participating in the Port Huron Float Down this Sunday.
The float down, an annual event in which people ride inflated floatation devices down the river, has drawn condemnation from law enforcement and rescue crews for years due to the risk they say it poses to participants.
"High risk factors such as fast-moving current, weather conditions, water temperature, large number of participants, lack of lifejackets, alcohol consumption, and limited rescue resources can create challenging emergency response scenarios that can result in serious injuries or fatalities," a joint statement from the coast guards said.
The coast guards cited incidents in previous river float events, including the drowning of a man in 2014, and high winds in 2016 that blew 1,500 people into Canada.
Those condemnations have not previously stopped participants from joining in the tradition. Each year, hundreds to thousands travel up to seven miles on the St. Clair River from Port Huron to Marysville.
Floaters typically start the journey about 1 p.m. from Lighthouse Beach and ending hours later at Marysville's Chrysler Beach. The health department Thursday issued a no swim advisory for Lighthouse and four other county beaches due to E. coli levels.
Though the U.S. and Canadian coast guards condemned the unsanctioned event, boat traffic on the river will be closed between noon and 7 p.m. to reduce the risks of incidents.
The statement also made several safety recommendations for those who do choose to participate. Among the recommendations:
Wear a life jacket
Bring a waterproof bag to hold any personal items
Bring a paddle in case of fast-moving water currents
Tell someone your plans, including schedule and intended route, in case you are reported missing
Have a friend to keep an eye on you
Do not drink alcohol
Dress appropriately and use a float that limits exposure to water
Stay near the shore
Write your name and contact number on your floatation device
Temperatures in Port Huron are expected to reach a high of 85 degrees Sunday. Water temperatures below 70 degrees can cause hypothermia, according to the coast guard statement.
"The U.S. and Canadian Coast Guard, supported by a large number of federal, state, provincial, and local agencies, are highly trained, but with limited resources. We embrace this responsibility, but cannot be everywhere," the coast guards said. "We rely on users of the marine environment to look out for one another, act responsibly, wear lifejackets, and refrain from alcohol consumption while on the water to improve the likelihood they return home safely."
Contact Johnathan Hogan at email@example.com.
This article originally appeared on Port Huron Times Herald: U.S. and Canada coast guards issue warning ahead of Port Huron Float Down