NEVADA CITY, Calif. May 30, 2017 – A provocative headline maybe, but it is time for a reality check. Snowmelt and reservoir releases have created deadly conditions on all rivers. Resist the lure of favorite swimming holes, the “quick dip” in the river and the “getting close to the water for that great selfie.” Your life is worth more than an afternoon that ends in tragedy.
You were warned
Prior to the holiday weekend, warning messages abounded:
“Due to a record setting Sierra snowpack and unseasonal warm temperatures, the South Yuba River is running faster and colder than we have seen in many years. Areas that appear to be safe may have dangerous undertow currents. Wearing life jackets and closely supervising small children are strongly advised.” [State Parks: Extremely Hazardous River Conditions at the South Yuba River]
“Fire is not the only danger that can occur in the outdoors, as water drownings also increase dramatically during this holiday weekend. As the snowpack continues to melt, the rivers and lakes will run fast and cold, making them very dangerous. Following a few simple steps could save someone’s life.” [CAL FIRE urges caution this Memorial Day Weekend]
“The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Sacramento District’s Daguerre Point Dam on the Yuba River is experiencing unusually high water flows. Flows are normally 700 to 1,200 cubic feet per second (cfs) during the summer months but at present are averaging over 6,000 cfs.” [May 18: High-volume flows of Yuba River pose danger]
6,000 cfs equals 44,883.12 gallons per second. It takes 14 seconds to fill an Olympic-size swimming pool at 6,000 cfs.
Risking your life and first responders’ too
With every accident comes a response. Firefighters, medics, search&rescue teams, air ambulances and other helicopters will respond to these emergencies. Swift water rescue, medical rescues, technical rescues are part of their extensive training. Every year, first responders die saving lives. If you don’t value your own life, think about your family, your friends and these perfect strangers willing to risk their own life to save yours.
These river accidents are preventable. All it takes is personal responsibility and common sense. That goes especially for “I’m a strong swimmer” types.
Conditions are not likely to change soon
Don’t expect the rivers to go back to drought levels or even normal conditions any time soon. The melting snowpack will make for at least another two months of extremely hazardous conditions – water temperatures in the 40’s and high flows will be the norm. The volume of water alters the landscape, scouring river banks, displacing huge boulders, creating new hazards with trees being swept downstream and getting stuck underwater.
Swimmers and boaters alike need to be aware of the dangers. If you have to swim, do it in a lake and observe basic safety precautions: Wear a life jacket. Don’t swim alone. No drinking and swimming. For boaters, the same rules apply – a life jacket won’t ruin your style but can save your life.
At least six people have drowned in California rivers in the past two months. We extend our condolences to the families and friends of the victims. Please do not join this heartbreaking list.