Be mindful of swift-moving water
BY SHELBY WILLIS – DEPUTY FIRE CHIEF, OGDEN CITY FIRE DEPARTMENT
Spring is here, and, very quickly, we will see temperatures rise. As the weather improves, we are drawn to the water. Tubing, kayaking, fishing, and swimming are all activities enjoyed on our rivers and waterways. Below are a few tips to keep you safe this spring and summer.
As the weather warms and the snow melts, the rivers rise. This happens very quickly, and along with an increase in water depth, the rivers increase in strength and force. Swift water is defined as water moving one and a half miles per hour. This does not seem very problematic. Consider this the speed of a lazy river. More often, however, as the water level rises, the swiftness of the water increases substantially. A typical swift-moving river travels at four to eight miles per hour. Four miles per hour equates to a brisk walk, and eight miles per hour is faster than most of us can sprint. In addition to the speed of the water, the force of the water also increases.
Water has tremendous force and can move objects with ease. The speed at which water is traveling can be very deceiving. A river flowing eight miles/hr. can swiftly move a car or small truck. Imagine how fast a person would move in this situation.
During the spring runoff, when the water levels rise, keep yourself, your children, and pets away from the riverbanks. A dog retrieving a toy in water moving four to six miles per hour will be tough to save.
Also, consider vegetation, debris, rocks, and trees hidden underwater as the levels rise and increase in speed. Be careful to avoid getting caught up in these impediments. The force and speed of the water can quickly hold a person underwater, trapped against a tree or rock. When kayaking or tubing, always wear a personal flotation device. Ensure small children are wearing approved personal floatation devices as well.
Finally, another inherent danger is the temperature of the rivers during spring and early summer.
The typical temperature for the Ogden River in early springtime is between 40-50 degrees. In summer, the river warms to a balmy 68 degrees. These cool temperatures can quickly lead to hypothermia. A person can experience mild hypothermia in six to seven minutes when exposed to 40-degree water. When choosing to swim, limit the time submerged in the cooler water. Children and pets have a delayed reaction to cool water while enjoying the experience and ignoring the cold. Ensure your children and pets are warmed often and not left in cool water over long periods.
Ogden is fortunate to have many opportunities to get out and enjoy nature. Be mindful of swift-moving water, be respectful of its power. Stay safe and enjoy the view.