PG&E and the California Department of Boating and Waterways are cautioning people who intend to use area rivers and streams for recreation to be wary of swift currents due to spring snowmelt.
Despite this year’s below-normal snowfall, swift-moving river flows make waterways particularly dangerous this time of year for swimmers, boaters and anglers.
“Those planning outings near mountain streams, rivers and reservoirs need to be vigilant and take appropriate safety measures,” said Debbie Powell, director of PG&E’s hydro-generation department. “Water flows will fluctuate with the warming and cooling of the day, so always be prepared for a change in conditions.”
Though California’s mountain snowpack is about 40 percent of normal, what snow is present is melting rapidly now that temperatures have started to rise, according to PG&E. As warmer weather and longer days accelerate snow melt, water temperatures will continue to drop and some reservoirs will begin to spill downstream.
Cold water reduces body heat 25 to 30 times faster than air at the same temperature, so hypothermia should be a concern.
Sudden immersion in cold water can also stimulate the “gasp reflex” causing an involuntary inhalation of water, and can even trigger a heart attack.
Additionally, cold water entering the ear can result in vertigo, causing swimmers to become disorientated.
Boaters should be aware that unseen obstacles could be lurking below the water’s surface, and swift moving currents can make the hazards harder to see.
As conditions change, it’s important to always wear a life jacket when on the water. Children younger than 13 must wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket when boating, and jet ski riders must also wear a life jacket.
It is illegal to drive a boat if your blood alcohol concentration level is above 0.08, and you can still be arrested if your BAC is below 0.08 depending on conditions.