Rangers warn of dangerous debris in Georgia waterways

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With a surprisingly warm January weekend after days of rain, many Atlantans are excited to get out on the water.

But here's a warning before you pack up for the lake.

Because of all the recent wet weather, there's a lot of potentially dangerous debris out at the lake.

Boat owner Gary Thompson says he's excited about the high water levels and the beautiful weekend.

"It's a joy to have the lake up," Thompson said. "It looks great. We know it is difficult for some homeowners to have to recable their docks. All and all it is good to have the lake up."

But this time of the year brings added hazards, as seasonal heavy rains and debris can make navigation tricky.

"As the water levels rise, that debris picks up and starts to flow into the lake," Georgia Department of Natural Resources Ranger Shane Brown said. "It usually starts in the creek channels and works its way up to the big water." 

There's plenty of debris to see just looking at the lake, but there's also a lot of hidden dangers just under the surface, Brown said.

"Mostly logs of different sizes," Brown said. "I've even seen cut firewood floating the other day."

Striking one of these could easily cause damage, so agents say you should keep it slow and scan the water.

"Just like on the highway, when there are hazards, if you will slow down it will give you more time to react, so slow down, always wear your life jacket and your kill switch," Brown said. 

It's natural for debris to enter the water this time of year, but the mild temperatures may bring more traffic to the water than usual, which is why authorities are extending the extra words of caution. 

"It's always worse in the river channels from Lumpkin Park down to Midlake and the Chattahoochee River channels, because that is the main watershed from the mountains," Brown said. "That is where all of the water is coming from."

For the experienced angler or the weekend joy ride, a slower pace may be key for a safer weekend.