By Barbara LaBoe / The Daily News Posted: Tuesday, July 6, 2010 10:00 pm
Yes, summer is finally here. But officials are warning all residents to be careful as they head to the water to cool off during the next few days.
After a cloudy end to the holiday weekend, temperatures started rising Tuesday and aren't expected to drop for several days. The Weather Service is predicting highs in the low 90s for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and mid 80s at least through Tuesday.
A heat advisory also has been issued for Wednesday and Thursday. Weather officials are warning people to stay indoors if needed, drink plenty of fluids and keep a close eye on children and the elderly.
As the temperature rises officials also know residents will head to lakes and rivers to cool off. After nine drownings in the region last summer, though, they're hoping to make people more aware of the dangers. And they're recommending precautions.
"I'm hoping the lessons that we learned last year are still fresh in people's minds," said Cowlitz County Sheriff Mark Nelson, who started a water safety committee after last year's drownings. "We don't want to discourage people from enjoying water-related activities, that's one of the reason we live where we do. All we're asking people to do is to use every safety precaution. ... Because our waters can take anyone at anytime."
"It's really when people become complacent and aren't aware of their surroundings that they get into trouble," added Dave LaFave, Chief of Cowlitz 2 Fire & Rescue and a member of Nelson's water safety committee.
The group has expanded the number of loaner life jacket boards at Willow Grove and other locations and put up safety reminders in places such as convenience stores.
Fire District 5 in Kalama has analyzed drowning deaths since 2000 and counted 31 among Cowlitz County coroner's records. So far the colder than normal weather has kept many people out of the water but Kalama Chief Vic Leatzow said he's sure there will be a "dramatic" increase in water recreation now that the hot weather is here.
"I'm crossing my fingers that people be careful," Nelson said. "We don't want any repeats from last year."
Water safety tips
Here are some tips to be safe while in the water:
• Wear life jackets.
• Have a flotation device that can be thrown to someone in trouble. Charging in the water to save someone can result in two people in distress.
• Don't drink alcohol, especially to excess. It can lead to dehydration and dull reflexes.
• Don't swim in unauthorized areas. LaFave said having to track someone down who has trespassed on private property slows emergency response because crews don't know where they're going or what kind of access there is.
• Make sure there is an adult designated to watch children in the water so any problem is noticed immediately.
• Never swim alone.
• Get out of the water if a large ship is approaching or has just passed through the area. Large wakes can suck people out too far for them to swim back or can slam them into objects along the shore.
• Be aware that even though it's hot, the rivers and lakes can still be cold