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Use caution around cold rivers, lakes, and Puget Sound as warmer weather arrives this Memorial Day weekend

Summary

Sunny and warmer weather is expected to bring residents to area rivers, lakes, and Puget Sound this long Memorial Day weekend, and King County officials urge everyone to be safe and aware of cold-water temperatures.

Story

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.

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.

“Swimming is a great way to be physically active, but dangerous without the right equipment. If you are on or in the water, wear a lifejacket and come home alive,” said Tony Gomez, Violence and Injury Prevention Manager for Public Health – Seattle & King County.

“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.”

“Rivers are dangerous year-round, and even more so in the springtime due to cold water and faster flows from mountain snowmelt. Always wear a lifejacket on the river,” said Christie True, Director of the King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks. “Don’t forget that river systems are constantly changing with shifting rocks and submerged trees creating new hazards - particularly after flood events.”

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.

RELEVANT LINKS

For details on river safety, visit kingcounty.gov/riversafety.
For information on water safety and drowning prevention, visit the King County Water Safety website kingcounty.gov/healthservices/health/injury/water.


QUOTES

Swimming is a great way to be physically active, but dangerous without the right equipment. If you are on or in the water, wear a lifejacket and come home alive.

Tony Gomez, Violence and Injury Prevention Manager for Public Health – Seattle & King County

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. Most preventable drowning incidents occur on open water, and wearing a lifejacket is one of the ways you can help prevent these tragedies.

Mitzi Johanknecht, King County Sheriff

Rivers are dangerous year-round, and even more so in the springtime due to cold water and faster flows from mountain snowmelt. Always wear a lifejacket on the river. Don’t forget that river systems are constantly changing with shifting rocks and submerged trees creating new hazards - particularly after flood events.

Christie True, Director, King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks


FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Doug Williams, Department of Natural Resources and Parks, 206-477-4543
Sgt. Tim Meyer, King County Sheriff’s Office, 206-263-5598
Public Health – Seattle & King County, PHPIO@kingcounty.gov