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Spring snowmelt prompts water safety warning

POSTED May 1, 2012 10:20 p.m.

As the warmer weather is finally allowing Valley residents to get outdoors and enjoy recreational activities, officials are advising caution near rivers.

Despite this year’s below-normal snowfall, the spring snowmelt can still result in swift and cold river flows that can create treacherous conditions for all recreationists – waders, swimmers, paddlers, boaters, anglers, and even hikers cooling off at the water’s edge.

The utility and state departments cautioned that even though the water content of California’s mountain snowpack is near 40 percent of normal, there is still a significant amount of water in the snowpack and it is rapidly melting as mid-spring temperatures continue to warm. As warmer weather and longer days accelerate melting snow in mountainous regions, water temperatures will continue to drop and flows will continue to rise in waterways and reservoirs, with some reservoirs spilling and resulting in higher flows downstream.

Those planning outings near mountain streams, rivers and reservoirs need to be vigilant and take appropriate safety measures,” said Debbie Powell, director of PG&E’s hydro generation department. “Water flows will fluctuate with the warming and cooling of the day so always be prepared for a change in conditions.”

“Even experienced swimmers can get caught in swift river flows,” said DBW’s Acting Director Lucia C. Becerra. “Stay safe by checking local water conditions before taking a boating trip, wear a life jacket, and avoid alcohol.”

“Spring is a wonderful time to visit our beautiful lakes and fast-moving rivers,” said Ruth Coleman, director of California State Parks. “But please read the safety tips in this water safety warning because making a mistake could threaten the life of a loved one.” 

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