Snow pack measurements this winter and spring were greater than last year. The additional spring snow melt means more and colder water than California has seen in several years. The swift water can create treacherous conditions for all recreationists -- waders, swimmers, paddlers, boaters, anglers and hikers cooling off at the water’s edge.
“The month of May traditionally marks the beginning of boating season in California,” said Lynn Sadler, DBW’s deputy director. “As we enjoy getting back out on and in the water, it is critical that we exercise extra caution and awareness, especially if venturing into unfamiliar waterways, or areas impacted by the drought. Have fun, but please stay safe.”
Below are some water safety tips:
Know the water
- Sudden immersion in cold water can stimulate the “gasp reflex,” causing an involuntary inhalation of air or water. It can even trigger cardiac arrest, temporary paralysis, hypothermia and drowning. When faced with swift water, even the strongest swimmers may be easily overwhelmed.
- Cold water entering the ear canal can cause vertigo and disorientation. This may confuse swimmers, causing them to venture deeper into the water.
- Recreating in PG&E canals and flumes is strictly prohibited. Stay out of these water conveyances, which are very dangerous due to slippery sides and fast moving water.
- Swimming in open water is more difficult than in a swimming pool -- people tire more quickly and can get into trouble.
- Cold water causes impairment leading to fatalities. It reduces body heat 25 to 30 times faster than air does at the same temperature.
- Many unseen obstacles can be lurking below the water’s surface – this is especially the case during ongoing drought conditions. Swift water can make these obstacles even more treacherous. Guided trips for inexperienced paddlers are recommended.
- Conditions change quickly in open water and even the best swimmers can misjudge the water and their skills when boating or swimming. Wearing a properly-fitted U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket can increase survival time.
- A life jacket can also provide some thermal protection against the onset of hypothermia and keep you afloat until someone else can rescue you.
- Actively supervise children in and around open bodies of water, giving them your undivided attention. Appoint a designated “water watcher,” taking turns with other adults.
- Teach children that swimming in open water is not the same as swimming in a pool: they need to be aware of uneven surfaces, river currents, ocean undertow and changing weather.
- Every child under 13 must wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket when on a moving recreational vessel of any length.
- A Coast Guard-approved life jacket must be carried for each person on board a boat. This includes rigid or inflatable paddlecraft.
- Every person on board a personal watercraft (popularly known as “jet skis”) and any person being towed behind a vessel must wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket.
- It is against the law to operate a boat or water ski with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent or more. You can be arrested even when that number is less than 0.08 percent if conditions are deemed to be unsafe.
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