Officials urge caution when swimming this summer
Cold spring temperatures and heavier than normal snowpack have created dangerous conditions
As temperatures finally begin to rise in the Puget Sound, King County officials are asking residents to use extra caution when swimming this summer.
According to the King County Parks and Natural Resources Department, water in local waterways such as rivers, lakes and beaches will be colder than usual due to the heavy snowpack and cold temperatures of the spring
According to the King County Department of Natural Resources, the central Cascade Range’s mid-June snowpack is 300% above normal and snowmelt is still adding to local rivers as of June 21 .
In addition to lower water temperatures, the larger-than-normal snowpack means rivers are running higher and stronger than usual, creating more hazards for swimmers.
“We know rivers will run cold and fast well into the summer, and lakes will remain colder than normal, which can be deadly for people who aren’t prepared,” said Tony Gomez, director of flood prevention for violence and Public Health injuries. “Washington’s waters are often cold enough to cause cold water shock, even on a hot summer day. Cold water can quickly weaken even the strongest swimmer.”
Last year there were 29 preventable drownings in King County alone, and 15 of those were in open water, and most could have been prevented with a life jacket, according to the King County Department of Natural Resources.
The county recommends that people wear life jackets when swimming in a body of water where there is no lifeguard.
“A drowning is not like a drowning you see on TV or in the movies,” said Sgt. Richard Barton of the King County Sheriff’s Marine Rescue Dive Unit. “People aren’t moving or splashing the water. They’re doing the dog paddle and they’re not moving or gaining momentum. So if you see this action, do something, get at them with anything, a stick, a towel , an ice box. If they are further away, throw them something like a rope or a life jacket. And please wear a life jacket. I responded to seven drowning incidents last season. All were preventable if the person had just put on a life jacket.”
For more information on how to stay safe while enjoying the region’s lakes, rivers and beaches, visit the Seattle and King County Public Health website on water safety.