The first warm, summer stretch of weather is upon us. By Northwest standards, it might even be considered hot. This first stretch of summer heat is bringing with it reports of area drownings and near-drownings. As the valley is home to many mountain fed rivers and lakes, I wanted to take a moment to remind everyone to exercise caution when venturing into local lakes and/or rivers.
Just yesterday, a 19-year-old young man ventured from the shallow water of the Green River into deeper, colder water and is now in critical condition at Harborview Medical Center, having been underwater for 7-8 minutes. Last week another teenager nearly drowned in Federal Way’s Steel Lake and a 43-year-old man did drown in the Cowlitz River.
Warm weather usually leads people to area lakes and rivers. In response, emergencies officials are urging the public to exercise caution in and around lakes and rivers. Officials warn that most area drownings happen in late spring/early summer when water temperatures are still very cold, which can get people into trouble very quickly.
Lake Washington is still only 65-70 degrees and local rivers, the Snoqualmie River included, are running high and fast after a record winter mountain snowfall and a rainy spring. Even Rattlesnake Lake was still only 64 degrees last week.
Officials urge swimmers and boaters to exercise caution and use life vests. In 2011, King County passed an ordinance requiring the use of a personal flotation device (PFD), a lifejacket, in King County rivers due to especially high, fast and cold river flows.
Sgt. Cindi West of the King County Sheriff’s Office said the stretch of the Green River where the latest near-drowning happened is still just 40 degrees despite the recent warm weather. “It may be 80 degrees outside, but you put your body in a 40 degree river and it’s not going to respond the way you think it’s going to respond,” she warned.
For an invaluable Snoqualmie River Safety Video by Eastside Fire and Rescue Battalion Chief click HERE. Enjoy the sunshine and be safe!