SPRING SNOWMELT PROMPTS WATER SAFETY WARNING
Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), the California Department of Boating and Waterways (DBW), and California State Parks Warn Outdoor Recreationists to Take Precautions this Season
Contact: PG&E External Communications,
Boating and Waterways,
April 30, 2012
SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Outdoor recreationists should take serious precautions against cold temperatures and swift currents when in or near water this spring. Despite this year’s below-normal snowfall, the spring snowmelt can still result in swift and cold river flows that can create treacherous conditions for all recreationists – waders, swimmers, paddlers, boaters, anglers, and even hikers cooling off at the water’s edge.
The utility and state departments cautioned that even though the water content of California’s mountain snowpack is near 40 percent of normal, there is still a significant amount of water in the snowpack and it is rapidly melting as mid-spring temperatures continue to warm. As warmer weather and longer days accelerate melting snow in mountainous regions, water temperatures will continue to drop and flows will continue to rise in waterways and reservoirs, with some reservoirs spilling and resulting in higher flows downstream.
“Those planning outings near mountain streams, rivers and reservoirs need to be vigilant and take appropriate safety measures,” said Debbie Powell, director of PG&E’s hydro generation department. “Water flows will fluctuate with the warming and cooling of the day so always be prepared for a change in conditions.”
“Even experienced swimmers can get caught in swift river flows,” said DBW’s Acting Director Lucia C. Becerra. “Stay safe by checking local water conditions before taking a boating trip, wear a life jacket, and avoid alcohol.”
“Spring is a wonderful time to visit our beautiful lakes and fast-moving rivers,” said Ruth Coleman, director of California State Parks. “But please read the safety tips in this water safety warning because making a mistake could threaten the life of a loved one.”
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.
Know your limits
- 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. Swift water can make these obstacles even more treacherous. Guided trips for inexperienced paddlers are recommended.
Wear a life jacket
- Conditions change quickly in open water and even the best swimmers can misjudge the water and their skills when boating or swimming. Wearing a life jacket can increase survival time.
- A life jacket can 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.
Know the Law
- Every child under 13 must wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket when on a moving vessel that is 26 feet or less in 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 (BAC) of 0.08 percent or more. You can be arrested even when your BAC is less than 0.08 percent if conditions are deemed to be unsafe.
DBW enhances public access to California’s waterways and promotes on-the-water safety to California’s more than four million motorized and non-motorized boaters through programs funded by vessel registration fees, boating fuel tax dollars and boating facility construction loan payments. For more information, visit www.dbw.ca.gov.
Pacific Gas and Electric Company, a subsidiary of PG&E Corporation (NYSE:PCG), is one of the largest combined natural gas and electric utilities in the United States. Based in San Francisco, with 20,000 employees, the company delivers some of the nation’s cleanest energy to 15 million people in Northern and Central California. For more information, visit www.pge.com/about/.
About California State Parks
California State Parks manages 278 parks units in a system that contains 1.5 million acres, 300 miles of the California coastline, 640 miles of lakefront and more than 300 miles of rivers. More than 65-million people visited State Parks in 2010. For more information, visit www.parks.ca.gov.
NOTE TO MEDIA: Story opportunities on water safety can be scheduled with DBW.