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Agencies Warn Of Dangers From Swift, Cold Water In Rivers And Streams

July 01, 2011

After an extraordinary snowfall this past winter and spring, runoff from melting snow has swelled streams and rivers and significantly increased water flows in the area. The high flows, coupled with a forecast of hot weather near the century mark over the Fourth of July holiday weekend can present a potentially deadly situation to those who seek relief from the heat in area waterways and are unaware of the dangers.

Since the middle of June, Placer County Fire/CAL FIRE has responded to 11 water rescue calls in waterways in Placer, Yuba and Nevada counties.

Officials are warning of the hidden dangers in area waterways. Increased water flow changes underwater topography, which simply means that people entering the water should not expect that it will react the same way it did last year before large rocks and sand bars were moved by the force of the water during the winter. Areas that were safe to swim last year will not necessarily be safe this year. Beach areas are currently reduced due to the high water levels, so more water is flowing against trees, rocks, and storm debris that have the potential to trap a swimmer or pin them under water.

A large amount of snow in higher elevations through the Sierra Nevada continues to produce snowmelt, which is flowing into area streams and rivers. The water is unseasonably cold and fast for this time of year and exposes those who enter the water to hypothermia. Hypothermia is a medical emergency condition where the body loses heat faster than it can produce it and can occur in minutes when a person is immersed in very cold water. Hypothermia is potentially fatal.

Symptoms of hypothermia include: Shivering; clumsiness or lack of coordination; slurred speech or mumbling; stumbling; confusion or difficulty thinking; poor decision making, such as trying to remove warm clothes; drowsiness or very low energy; apathy, or lack of concern about one's condition; progressive loss of consciousness; weak pulse; and shallow breathing.

Placer County Fire/CAL FIRE reminds anyone who will be near or in water to follow these three steps: always wear a life jacket or flotation device; supervise children at all times; and never drink alcohol and swim.

Those using local hiking trails can expect minor flooding of trails, campgrounds and back roads. The National Weather Service warns the public not to drive vehicles into areas where the water covers the roadway as the water depth may be too great to allow safe crossing.

For a 30-second video of a Placer County Fire water safety video, please click on this link: Water Safety

For a 30-second audio clip on water safety, please click on this link: Audio Water Safety

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