Tahoe’s record snowfall this winter has filled local drought-stricken waterways and now waders, swimmers, paddlers, boaters, anglers and even people just admiring the view at the water’s edge face dangerous conditions that have not been present during low water years.
“Already this year we have seen tragic accidents on our waterways,” said California State Parks Division of Boating and Waterways (DBW) Deputy Director Lynn Sadler in a press release. “To avoid further loss of life in cold, high water, it is critical that we exercise extra caution and awareness, especially after our prolonged low water years. We urge boaters and water enthusiasts to follow these water safety tips this summer and beyond.”
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 that results in 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.
Many unseen obstacles can be lurking below the water’s surface, especially with this year’s high, swift runoff following years of drought. Submerged rocks and debris can ensnare swimmers, while floating logs and branches are boating and tow sport hazards.
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.
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 properly-fitted U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket can increase survival time.
A life jacket can also provide some thermal protection against the onset of cold water shock 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 and river currents.
Know the Law
Every child under age 13 must wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket when on a moving recreational vessel of any length.
U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets must be accessible for each person on board a boat. This includes rigid or inflatable paddlecraft such as kayaks, canoes and standup paddleboards.
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. | boatcalifornia.com