May 21, 2003
Jon Tremayne (415) 973-8709, PG&E
Megan Standard (916) 651-5692, DBW

Pacific Gas and Electric Company and the California Department of Boating and Waterways Warn of California River Dangers During Spring Snowmelt

SAN FRANCISCO - Pacific Gas and Electric Company and DBW are cautioning Californians planning outdoor activities for Memorial Day weekend to be aware of the potential dangers of the cold, spring runoff into the state's many rivers. Recreationists are cautioned to consider unpredictable river characteristics before entering any river.

"As Californians kick start their summer with the long Memorial Day weekend, we want to remind them to be vigilant of the dangers swift, cold water can pose," said Randy Livingston, the lead director of Pacific Gas and Electric Company's power generation unit, including the utility's vast hydroelectric system. "What may appear as an inviting pristine mountain creek can turn hazardous unless river users take the appropriate safety precautions."

This April was the fourth wettest on record and has provided heavy accumulations of late season snow pack in the mountains. With the warmer temperatures of the last week, and the expectation that much of the Sierra and Cascade mountains will be bathed in mid-80 degree weather for the holiday weekend, that snow pack has begun melting at increasing rates.

The resulting increased flow has created treacherous conditions in many of the state's streams and rivers for all recreationists - waders, swimmers, rafters, boaters, fishers and even hikers cooling off at waters' edge. The unpredictable flows cause unexpected currents that can trap unsuspecting or even experienced river users underwater with potentially fatal results. In addition, the ice-cold snowmelt feeding into the waterways can dramatically impair a swimmer's ability.

"One way you can help stay safe is to wear a life jacket," said DBW Director Ray Tsuneyoshi. "This can help to keep you afloat should you get caught in rushing water. You should also always swim or recreate with another person."

If you get caught in the water and swept off your feet:

  • Stay calm, lie on your back and do not try to stand up.
  • Drop any items that can weigh you down.
  • Keep your feet up and pointed downstream to avoid hitting rocks and to prevent foot entrapment.
  • Go with the current, moving diagonally across the current until you reach the shore or can grab onto something to anchor you. Stay there until help arrives.
  • If trapped on an island, stay there and signal for help.

For more information about Pacific Gas and Electric Company, please visit the company's web site at

For more information about the Department of Boating and Waterways, please visit the agency's website at