News | Oregon

Drowning Risk High When Hot Swimmers Take To Cold Water

OPB | July 3, 2014 3:58 p.m. | Updated: July 4, 2014 3:54 p.m. | Portland

Contributed By:

Aparna Vidyasagar

A paddle boarder on the Willamette River.  The Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office River Patrol Unit has some safety tips for people who plan to go out on the water this summer.

A paddle boarder on the Willamette River.  The Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office River Patrol Unit has some safety tips for people who plan to go out on the water this summer.

Aparna Vidyasagar

If you plan to get out on the water this summer be aware of the risks of drowning. Several recent drownings have been reported in Oregon and Washington.

Water temperatures in the state stay cold through the summer, even into late August (statewide daily water temperatures can be found here). Lieutenant Travis Gullberg manages the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office River Patrol Unit and oversees the Columbia and Willamette rivers. He says that coming into sudden contact with water colder than 70 degrees on a hot day can lead to gasping, fatigue and hypothermia, or very low body temperatures. All of these can cause drowning.

 There are other risk factors as well. “In many cases people get into trouble because they’ve overestimated their abilities and underestimated their exposure to weather, water conditions, or alcohol use, or lack of hydration. And typically what ends up happening is that people are unable to help rescue themselves,” Gullberg said.

 According to Gullberg people wearing a life vest are almost always rescued alive. He also has the following safety tips:

  • Minimize exposure to sun.
  • Stay hydrated.
  • Avoid operating boats while under the influence of alcohol.
  • Be sure to do boat safety checks and keep friends and family apprised of your plans. More boating safety tips are available through the American Boating Association.

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