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First responders warn of swift water dangers

Posted at 10:40 PM, Apr 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-30 00:40:43-04

COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS, Utah – Water rescue crews are gearing up for what they expect to be a busy weekend.

Unseasonably warm temperatures are causing snowmelt to flow into Utah’s rivers and creeks.

Water is rising and that creates a hazard.

“Two weeks ago, it didn’t look like this,” said Matthew McFarland with Unified Fire Authority. “It was much more calm.”

Since most families have spent weeks indoors due to the threat of COVID-19, the warm weather could bring more people outside.

“We are all going stir crazy,” McFarland said. “It’s warming up. This weekend is going to be beautiful.”

Those who head to waterways need to be aware of cold, fast-moving water. Those two factors can be deceiving when the air temperature is in the 70’s or 80’s.

“It’s a lot stronger than you think,” McFarland said. “That cold water makes your motor system shut down quickly.”

The power of the water can quickly put a child or an adult in a perilous situation.

“Ankle deep water for a child can easily sweep them away,” McFarland said. “Unfortunately, even before we can get there, even in prudent emergency response of two to seven minutes that can be too late for anybody to survive.”

People who want to recreate near creeks and rivers should do so with caution and avoid going in swift-moving water.

“It is a preventable accident. 100 percent preventable,” McFarland said. “Get outside, recreate, exercise, but please play it safe.”

The swift water threat lasts as long as rivers continue to rise. Unified Fire Authority estimates the risk will exist for about two months.