Fast, frigid rivers move with deadly force
The swollen waters of the Truckee River have already claimed one life this year, and officials are training for a potentially busy river rescue season.
Rescuers have not found the body of Edward Wilt, a 20 year old from Sun Valley, Nev., who they believe drowned Monday after jumping into the Truckee River east of Reno.
The incident illustrates the danger of rivers gorged by a snowpack that is more than one and a half times its normal size for this time of year, and is quickly melting under sunny skies.
The snowpack is nearly 30 percent above the level it registered last year at this date, according to water experts.
The potential for more rescues has prompted emergency crews to train and prepare for the spring and summer boating and rafting season.
The Truckee Fire Protection District is practicing river rescue techniques on the Truckee River this week.
“This river, with its high flows, always has its obstacles,” said Truckee Fire Protection District Capt. Steve Tennant.
Swift water, cold temperatures and “strainers” – obstacles like logs, branches or other debris – are the greatest dangers every spring, he said.
Last year firefighters rescued boaters and swimmers near Hirschdale, at Truckee River Regional Park and along Olympic Heights, Tennant said.
“A lot of them get out there with their bathing suits on and it’s nice weather, and they forget how cold the water is,” he said.
The Nevada County Consolidated Fire District was also in the water on the South Yuba River Tuesday, practicing maneuvers in swift water.
Responders use thermal suits, body boards, rafts and ropes to conduct rescues.
Spring runoff has filled most reservoirs, officials said, causing them to spill very cold water into area rivers. The flows, said Lisa Randle of PG&E, will fluctuate up and down with the warming and cool of the day creating a condition called “pulsing,” or the rising and falling of the amount of water flow.
– The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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