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Keep safety in mind at local rivers, urge officials

POSTED June 11, 2010 9:14 p.m.

The temperatures are climbing quickly into the ‘is it summer already?’ zone and the crisp waters of the Stanislaus River are looking more and more enticing. However, officials with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are quick to remind people that the river is running swift from high country snow run-off and cold with brisk temperatures between 55 and 60 degrees.

Cooler than normal spring weather brought late season snow to the mountains, delaying the annual melting by about three weeks, according to reports by the National Weather Service in Sacramento.

And the snow pack is hefty, resting at 215 percent of normal, according to data collected by the State Department of Water Resources.

The temptation to jump into the river becomes higher as the temperatures increase, but many are unaware of the dangers the frigid water hides, resulting in the potential for tragedy.

It only takes 20 to 30 seconds for fingers and toes to go numb. People lose muscle strength and dexterity, making it nearly impossible to save themselves, said officials with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

To date the river is flowing at 300 cubic feet per second, which is a little low for the season but once Goodwin Dam starts releasing water, it will rise quickly and dangerously.

Waders who cannot swim are advised to stay out of the river without a life jacket as even seemingly calm waters can hide dangerous undertows and swift current conditions.

Below are some tips for safe river activity recommended by Friends of the River, a statewide river conservation organization committed to promoting and protecting California’s rivers.


Tips for River Safety

·         Tell someone where you are going, when you expect to return, and where to call if you don’t.

·         Be sure your white water skills and experience are equal to the river and the conditions.

·         Never boat alone.

·         Wear a properly fitted Personal Flotation Device (PFD) at all times when you are in or near the river.

·         Know your limits. Know when and how to swim for an eddy.

·         Be prepared for extremes in weather, especially cold. Know about the dangers of hypothermia and how to deal with it. Know early signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion and dehydration in hot weather.

·         Reduce threat of injury by wearing protective footwear and proper clothing.

·         Carry a first aid kit and know how to use it. Learn or review medical aid responsibilities and CPR.

·         Never run a rapid unless you can see a clear path through it. Watch out for new snags after winter and spring floods.

·         Allow the craft ahead of you to pass through the rapid before you enter it. This will avoid a double disaster if the leading boat blocks the channel.

·         When in doubt, stop and scout. If you are still in doubt? Portage.

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