As the annual Port Huron Float Down took place on Sunday, reports surfaced that approximately 1,500 Americans washed up on Canadian shores due to unforeseen forceful winds.
The yearly event involves thousands of people floating down the river in rafts, inner tubes, and other flotation devises from Port Huron, Michigan.
It’s pretty much a free-for-all as there are no event sponsors, operators, or registration process.
“It’s something you do to get bragging rights,” floater Nancy Tatar reportedly said.
This year, things got out of hand when rain and high winds started pushing participants toward the St. Clair River near Sarnia, Ontario and various spots along the Canadian shore, according to the CBC.
“There were people in places you'd never think something would float, but there were Americans everywhere,” Peter Garapick of the Canadian Coast Guard said. “There was no chance for anything floating or people on inner tubes to go anywhere but Canada.”
“The people who take part in this are not mariners,” Garapick said. “They don't look at the wind, the weather and the waves. We knew from the get-go, the winds were going to cause a problem. There's no question they were involuntarily coming to Canada.”
Port Huron Police Sgt. Jason Barna said people have been reported missing as a result of the mishap, but it’s unclear if they are actually missing or just got separated from their group.
So many Americans reportedly ended up in Canada that officials had to set up a “refugee camp” of sorts to screen people before sending them back to U.S. Customs and Immigration by Sarnia Transit buses.
All of the local emergency services were on deck to help displaced floaters.
Sarnia police released a statement confirming that, “hundreds of people are being assisted by the Sarnia Police Service, Sarnia Fire Department, Lambton EMS, Ontario Provincial Police, Canada Customs and Border Agency, RCMP and Canada Coastguard water units, Sarnia Transit, Canadian Red Cross, security and fire personnel from the various chemical and petrochemical plants that border the St. Clair River, and members of the general public.”
Canadian passersby were even offering the shirts off their backs to help keep rescued floaters warm. Many of the partying Americans were very concerned about landing in Canada without any identification and decided to take their chances swimming back to the United States.
“We had to pull a lot of people out of the water and say 'no,'” Garapick said. “They were very upset, cold, and miserable.”
He said Sunday’s unexpected situation made this year’s float down the “worst in the history of the event.”
Luckily, of all the people affected, there have been no reports of fatalities. It actually became more of a laughing matter than a tragedy.
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