The U.S. Coast Guard responded to four separate search-and-rescue calls in waters along the state's west coast on Tuesday, blaming high winds and inclement weather that is expected to last into Wednesday.
Coast Guard crews have "assisted 18 lives," seven of whom were pulled from the water within the last 12 hours, Randall Brown, deputy commander of the St. Petersburg Sector, said in a statement Tuesday afternoon.
The gusty conditions were forecast to continue through Tuesday, along with scattered thunderstorms that could cause low visibility, rough seas and deadly lightning strikes.
"One of the most important decisions you can make as a mariner is to understand the current and forecasted weather conditions," Brown said in the release. "There are times it may just be best to stay off the water."
The Coast Guard reminds boaters to check marine forecasts before leaving the dock and to ensure life vests and other safety equipment are on board.