Drought adds danger to boating on North Texas lakes



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Posted on May 24, 2014 at 5:39 PM

Updated Sunday, May 25 at 5:41 PM

LEWISVILLE LAKE — The body of a Little Elm boater who disappeared Friday night at Lewisville Lake was recovered on Sunday.

The Memorial Day holiday weekend brings out dozens of boaters eager to spend their days... and nights... on the water. If the last time they were on the lake was Labor Day of last year, they may have no idea how conditions have changed.

Due to drought, officials said water levels are at least 10 feet lower than usual.

Denton County Sheriff Will Travis said it is a major problem for boaters. Some boat ramps along the lake were unable to open.

"Boaters coming in on this particular weekend are noticing that they are hitting sandbars they would not normally hit,” said Travis.

The sheriff and a crew of deputies were patrolling the lake near Westlake Park on Saturday.

It was unclear if water levels have contributed to a boat capsizing late Friday evening. Lt. Game Warden Jennifer Kemp said a man and a woman who were in the boat climbed on top of the hull and called for help, but before rescue crews arrived, the man slipped into the water and never resurfaced.

He was later identified as 31-year-old Blake Long.

Search crews worked Friday night and all day Saturday trying to find Long, but they were unsure where he went under because the location of the boat had drifted by the time help arrived.

His body was recovered at midday Sunday.

“It’s probably an area the size of 10 football fields,” Kemp said, explaining how much territory search teams were trying to cover.

Side scan sonar was used to help locate Long's body divers were sent back in.

The Denton County Sheriff's Office is strongly urging people to stay off the lake at night. Alcohol is also believed to have played a role in the latest accident, as it has in many others in the past.

“It is causing an enormous amount of problems for us,” Travis said. “I would say 80 percent of our deaths are alcohol related out here.”

E-mail cwade@wfaa.com