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Experts warn of cold and swift mountain runoff

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Posted at 8:31 PM, May 20, 2014
and last updated 2014-05-20 22:32:36-04

LITTLE COTTONWOOD CANYON -- On a warm spring day, taking a dip in Little Cottonwood Canyon Creek might seem like a good way to cool off. But experts warn, it only takes two minutes before hypothermia sets in and you can't pull yourself out.

"Every year we have people drown in the river and streams in Utah the water temperature is right around 35 degrees," said Brian McInerney, Hydrologist for the National Weather Service.

That's because the last of the mountain snowpack is melting, running into Utah's rivers and streams --and creating a peak of watershed for northern Utah.

"You have to understand that this water is going to be running very fast and will be incredibly cold," McInerney said.

Water levels will also be higher in just the past five days levels have tripled in some of Utah’s rivers and streams. And falling in the water could bring a quick and maybe deadly end to your Memorial Day weekend.

“Don`t do anything out of your comfort zone -- just use common sense, don`t be silly about the decisions you make,” said Justus Seeley, Swift Water Rescue Technician.

Officials say the best thing to do is to know the conditions of where you're at, what the temperature of the water is and the flow and depth.

“I would stick to low elevation water sheds but if you`re going to a high water shed it`s really important you pay attention to the streams know they`re going to get higher at this time,” McInerney said.

But the same isn’t true in southern Utah where for the third year in a row, snowpack was well below average.

“When you look at the snow pack and the runoff in northern Utah we`re just a little below normal but once you get south of Utah they will have essentially no water this year,” McInerney said.

To get more information about stream flow across Utah go to: http://www.pweng.slco.org/flood/streamFlow/.