Boaters urged to be cautious

Published online: May 25, 2010 News JOEL CURRIER - ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
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Rich Vogler has taken no chances on the water this spring. He remembers vividly how the swollen Mississippi River punished his cruiser several years back.

"We hit a submerged buoy," said Vogler, 65, a retired Boeing manager who now lives on a houseboat at Port Charles Harbor marina north of St. Charles. The collision cost him $11,000 to repair.

Because of the spring's wet, chilly weather and high river levels, Vogler says his houseboat "hasn't been out of the harbor yet this year."

But he'll be navigating the river on the upcoming Memorial Day weekend along with droves of others kicking off the boating season.

Above-average rainfall this month has the area's major rivers gushing stronger and higher, making them potentially more dangerous than normal. But this week's relatively drier forecast means boaters can expect smoother sailing ahead.

Through Sunday, St. Louis had 4.25 inches of rain in May, which is 1.18 inches above normal, said Julie Phillipson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Weldon Spring. The weekend forecast is free of rain and calls for mostly sunny skies with high temperatures in the mid-80s.

The Meramec, Mississippi and Missouri rivers are receding and are expected to drop below flood stage by Saturday, forecasters say. But river levels will remain slightly above normal.

"We're still going to have some pretty strong currents," Phillipson said. "People are going to need to exercise some caution for sure."

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