UFA Reminds Residents of Swift Water Dangers as Snow Melts

UFA Reminds Residents of Swift Water Dangers as Snow Melts
Posted on 05/01/2019

By Ryan Love - UFA Public Information Officer

Several late storms have brought much precipitation to the Wasatch Front following a decade of less than impressive snowfall. Warm temperatures have begun to melt the mountain snow that will flow down the valley through a network of rivers. The recreation opportunities seem endless. Though the rivers may be tempting this summer, the high flows and cold temperatures make rivers deceptively dangerous. Big and Little Cottonwood creeks have not had flows as high ascurrently forecasted since 2011.

Rivers with high flows and cold temperatures can claim the lives of even the most experienced and skilled swimmers. With the large snowpack, these fast-flowing, cold conditions are likely to continue long into the summer season. Hypothermia can occur quickly and severely incapacitate even the strongest swimmers. As the weather warms up and residents begin to flock to the water, Unified Fire Authority wants to remind Utahns to take the right precautions before entering the water. 

In Northern Utah, drowning deaths most often occur in warm months.What makes Utah unique is the frequency of drowning deaths in water bodies fed by snow melt which includesmost cold-running rivers found inthe state. In May 2017,a mother and a Good Samaritan drownedwhile trying to rescue a 4-year-old girlin the Provo River. 

All too often, we see would-be rescuers become victims as well. If you witness someone getting swept away by the current do not jump into the water to try to save them. Look for something you can use to reach out to the victim and call 911 immediately. 

When someone gets swept away, it is instantly a critical situation. The water is often times just a few degrees above freezing temperatures. Once you're in it, your body can shut down very quickly and your ability to use your motor functions is going to be limited. If you get swept away by swift water, try to focus onkeeping your head above the water and your feet downstream facing the direction you are going. This will limit the chances of crashing into boulders and getting caught up in underwater hazards or strainers. 

Our local rivers may have currents that are deceptively strong and just a foot or two deep could have an aggressive and powerful current that goes with it. Anytime you, your children, or your pets are recreating near a body of water, make sure you have a personal flotation device. If you are anywhere near moving water, expect the unexpected. Expect that it is going to be stronger than you think and that it may very well sweep you away, so please take necessary precautions to keep you and your family safe.