Record snowmelt yields dangerous waters

Public agencies offer tips for outdoor water safety

Record snowmelt yields dangerous watersBy JAYME KINARD

News Review Correspondent

As summer approaches and temperatures rise, Bakersfield Fire Department reports that there are record levels of snowmelt and runoff flowing into the Kern River, making the water extremely rough and fast-moving.

Over Memorial Day weekend, officials report that there were three deaths and twenty-four others who needed rescuing from the Kern River. That is in addition to at least three other drowning deaths in the communities in and around the Southern Sierra.

Due to the increased risk of water-related incidents, the Kern River Ranger District, the American Red Cross and the Department of Health have provided the following tips on how to stay safe in the water.

When you’re around water, always remember to take extra care when walking on uneven or wet surfaces. Always keep children under constant supervision, and only swim in areas meant for swimming, typically marked with ropes or buoys.

Swimming in lakes, ponds, rivers and the ocean is much different than swimming in a pool. It is easy to tire more quickly because of the current and waves, and the water is not typically clear, making it difficult to see anyone who goes underneath the water.

Never swim alone and always wear a lifejacket that fits properly. Lifejackets are not meant only for boating. Be cautious of sudden drop-offs in lakes and rivers.

Even strong swimmers have fallen victim to these conditions and been swept away with the current. Especially in rivers, you should always be aware of the current and rocks or debris moving along the bottom, and take extra care to keep your feet away from rocks so you don’t get your foot trapped. Always enter water slowly, feet first, not from a tall height such as a bridge or ledge. Before going out for the day, check the weather forecast.

If a sudden change in weather occurs, always exit the water at the first sight of lightning or sound of thunder.

The Kern River Ranger District in the Sequoia National Forest recently held a press conference with several local emergency agencies in attendance, where Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreax said, “We welcome visitors to the beautiful Kern River, but we sincerely ask that you not underestimate the power of moving water. Always be mindful of your surroundings and exercise sound judgment while enjoying our waterways. Our office remains committed to doing everything we can to assure the safety of all visitors.”

In all natural water environments, you should always be aware of the wildlife living in and around the area, warn officials.

Officials also cautioned anyone seeking outdoor recreation near water from ever using alcohol and/or drugs while swimming or supervising other swimmers. If possible, bring a cell phone so that emergencies can be reported expediently, say officials. And make sure to tell your children about possible dangers.

Always exercise caution in any situation involving water. If you do find yourself in an emergency situation where someone needs help in the water, being prepared and acting quickly could save a life.

For additional information on safety and access to the Kern River and other local bodies of water, visit the Facebook pages and official websites of Kern River Ranger District, the American Red Cross and the Kern County Department of Health.

Story First Published: 2017-06-02