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Officials: Stay Out of the Fast-Moving, Deadly NorCal Waterways

High water in the South Yuba River at the old CA-49 bridge in January 2017

With the temperatures increasing and the Northern California waterways looking especially inviting, officials are warning the public to stay away from the fast-moving rivers that are proving to be deadly this summer.

The incredibly large snowpack in the Sierra Nevada has provided high water levels for NorCal rivers. Add the recent emergence of high temperatures, causing the melting snowpack to swiftly run down the mountainside and create a dangerous situation on our waterways, especially the American and Yuba Rivers east of Sacramento.

Yuba River. Flickr/Erin Johnson

“People need to stay away from the river, stay out of the water,” Nevada County sheriff’s Lt. Bob Jakobs said to KCRA. “Rivers are extremely dangerous right now. And with the snowpack and river runoff, we expect it to be this way for some time.”

Multiple drownings have occurred on the Yuba and American Rivers already this summer. Most notable was the recovery of the body of a 23-year-old man earlier this week, who had jumped into the popular Emerald Pools of the South Fork of the Yuba River.

“In our incident last weekend, the river was running at just below 1,000 (cubic feet per second) — so that would be roughly 1,000 basketballs rushing down at you every second,” Jakobs said. “We’ve had a number of incidents where people were pulled under the water and they actually got entrapped, and they got a foot or arm stuck under a rock. They were pinned.”

Water moving swiftly on the American River

If the incredible power of the water doesn’t get you, the temperature might. With the water moving quickly down the Sierra Nevada, it doesn’t get much time to warm, bringing water temperatures below 50 degrees.

“When a normal person jumps into this water without any of the gear, their body tends to freeze and lock up,” Nevada County Consolidated Fire District Capt. Phil Nunnink said to KCRA. “What that does, your motor skills tend to slow, and you can’t do the things you can normally to do.”

It’s important to know the dangers of the wild waters you intend on swimming in and take extreme caution. Just when you think your invincible, Mother Nature will show you who’s boss.

The Nevada County Sheriff Search and Rescue team is a volunteer-based organization that assists law enforcement with rescues on the dangerous rivers. On Saturday, July 6, the team is holding its annual Stuff the Pack event to fundraise for supplies:

Please, use caution near our beautiful Northern California waterways.

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