Rivers, lakes are still too cold and unsafe for swimming
SNOHOMISH COUNTY — The weather’s fine, but the waters are not.
Lakes and rivers are too cold right now to go swimming, and many drowning victims die due to cold-water shock.
It can happen from falling off a boat or from diving into 50-degree water.
Your body instantly triggers an involuntary gasp reflex, which more than likely means inhaling water if you’ve gone underwater. It can incapacitate even strong swimmers in less than one minute, cold water safety materials from the state say.
Wearing a life jacket raises your head above water and at least gives you a fighting chance.
The rivers are cold in spring and early summer because snow melt is still flowing through.
Lakes are no better, hovering below 60 degrees. For example, Lake Stevens was 58 degrees two weeks ago, Snohomish Fire Chief Don Waller said from what water rescue technicians tested.
Boating and kayaking is not necessarily safer: Falls into water account for almost 1 in 10 drownings, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says.
A situation last month on the Skykomish River by Monroe served as a scare. A duo floating the river encountered rapids, and one went temporarily missing. A major search was called for several hours; the guy wasn’t wearing a life jacket. Eventually the guy surprised everyone by walking up to the search tent.
Loaner lifejackets are available at Lake Tye in Monroe, Flowing Lake Park in Snohomish, Martha Lake, Lake Goodwin and Wyatt Park.
The Monroe Fire Station, 163 Village Court has life jackets for families to borrow as well.
• Always wear a properly fitted life jacket no matter how good a swimmer you are. State law requires children ages 12 years and younger to wear a Coast Guard approved life jacket or vest. Learn more about life jackets at www.wearitwashington.org
• Don’t ride rivers on flimsy pool floating tubes, use something thicker such as river tubes built from heavy plastic. A puncture can leave you heading downstream without anything holding you up.
• When floating the river, have a plan for where and how long you’ll float, and tell someone not with you. Have a way to contact you in case you don’t arrive when expected.
• Be cautious of sudden drop-offs in lakes and rivers. People who can’t swim or aren’t strong swimmers have slipped into deeper water and drowned. Currents under the water suck people down.
• At all times, “avoid swimming where two rivers come together,” the state Department of Health advises “Many good swimmers have gotten into trouble or drowned in currents that didn’t seem to be moving that fast.”
• When boating, don’t overload the boat and do wear a life jacket. Many people have drowned when they fell overboard while fishing, hunting, or pulling up a crab pot.
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