With air temperatures expected to approach 80 degrees over the long Memorial Day holiday weekend and boating season underway, King County health and safety officials are urging everyone to be safe around open water, which remains bone-chilling cold.
Springtime means rivers are running with especially cold, fast flows due to snowmelt, while lakes and Puget Sound are also quite cold. Cold water can shock and quickly overwhelm and debilitate even the strongest of swimmers in a short time, according to a King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks press release.
River managers and emergency responders carry the most concern for swimmer safety during the warm weather early in the season when people are drawn to the water for floating, swimming, and boating while water temperatures are still cold. With a particularly large snowpack in the Cascades this year, water temperatures are expected to remain cold long into the season.
“Life jackets are essential if you do go on the river or lake,” said Tony Gomez, violence and injury prevention manager for Public Health – Seattle & King County. “Always wear a life jacket when boating, paddling, rafting, and inner tubing. Swimming is a great source of physical activity, but dangerous if proper safety measures are not in place,”
“Sadly, there has already been one drowning this season on the Green River recently when a man attempted to rescue a woman who had accidentally fallen in the river,” said King County Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht. “Most preventable drowning incidents occur on open water, and wearing a lifejacket is one of the ways you can help prevent these tragedies.”
King County, Public Health – Seattle & King County, and the King County Sheriff’s Office encourage kayakers, boaters, rafters, swimmers and other river users to check conditions and scout rivers thoroughly for hazards before entering the water. Sometimes the best plan is to not enter the water.