The only difference between adventure and disaster is preparedness.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Sheriff Warns of Cold Water Dangers


Kelso, WA-There are many things that warn us of danger; alarms, sirens, flashing lights, even someone yelling to get our attention. Consider this letter a warning; a way to avoid danger, even tragedy.

Hi! I'm Cowlitz County Sheriff Mark Nelson. The increased frequency of nice late spring weather, as well as the oncoming summer, brings out boaters, fishermen, and people anxious to enjoy the beautiful lakes and rivers that help make Cowlitz County such a beautiful place to live. However, along with the fun of our waters, come the associated dangers. Within the past few weeks, we have seen boats capsize; people fall overboard and a couple of neighboring counties have experienced drownings. WARNING! The glacier-fed waters are cold, really cold, and they can cause even a strong swimmer to become quickly incapacitated.

Over my career, I have had to pull far too many bodies out of our lakes and rivers. These were the bodies of folks who came to enjoy a relaxing, fun filled day at the beach, or on the water, and lost their lives; leaving devastated families and friends to deal with the aftermath of a pleasant day gone very, very wrong. Just this past weekend, three boaters were tossed into the icy-cold waters of Yale Lake when their boat capsized. Fortunate for them, since none of them were wearing personal floatation devices, nearby boaters were able to get to them before they succumbed to the debilitating cold water.

It works like this: you hit the water. The shock of the cold causes you to take a sharp, but shallow breath. The blood in your extremities immediately begins moving away from your limbs and into your body's core to help keep your internal organs warm. But that causes you to struggle to force your arms or legs to work. The shallow breath that you took in when you hit the water is not sufficient to provide adequate oxygen to your brain, much less the rest of your body, and you begin to flounder. Breathing is nearly impossible, except sharp, short gasps. In moments you find yourself slipping under the water, and there's nothing you can do about it.

WARNING! Please wear a life jacket. Be responsible, not regretful. Set an example, and not statistics. Make sure young people with you wear a life jacket. Make sure you have a floatable ring or cushion to throw to someone who may be in the water and is in trouble. Have a lifeline with a loop on the end for someone to get at least an arm through, that they might be pulled to safety.

There won't likely be anyone to shout a warning to you before a disaster may strike, so please heed my WARNING and prepare. Our waters are beautiful, but can be very unfriendly to the unprepared.

Be safe. Enjoy the beautiful recreation afforded us by the good Lord's creation, and let's all enjoy our waters without injury or loss of life this year.

Contact Info: Sheriff Mark Nelson 360-577-3092

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