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Increased boating patrols, cold-water warning at Lake Tahoe

Adam Jensen
ajensen@tahoedailytribune.com
Additional patrols on the lookout for drunken boaters will be on Lake Tahoe this weekend as part of Operation Dry Water, which is a national campaign.
File Photo

tips to stay safe at Lake Tahoe:

• Never swim alone.

• Tell a friend or file a “float plan” before boating, swimming or paddling.

• Check the weather for wind conditions http://www.weather.gov before going out.

• Know your swimming limitations and always wear a life jacket when boating.

• Never operate a boat under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

• Never jump into cold water and always prepare for accidental immersion.

Source: Nevada Department of Wildlife

Increased patrols for people boating under the influence are set for this weekend, and Lake Tahoe public safety personnel are also warning people of the dangers of swimming in cold water.

Several agencies at the lake will take part in Operation Dry Water Saturday and Sunday, June 25-26. The national campaign includes additional patrols for drunken boaters and is intended to deter operators from being under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

“Too many people are getting hurt in boating accidents at Lake Tahoe because of impaired operation,” said Washoe County Sheriff Chuck Allen in a statement announcing the operation.

Since 2009, law enforcement officers have removed 1,875 operators from the nation’s waterways for being under the influence and have made contact with more than 604,250 boaters during Operation Dry Water. In 2014, alcohol use was the primary factor in 21 percent of boater deaths.

“One quick way to end a weekend of fun with family and friends is mixing boating and alcohol,” said California State Parks Division of Boating and Waterways Boating Law Administrator Ramona Fernandez in the announcement. “It is a deadly cocktail that can lead to operator inattention and passengers falling overboard.”

Lake Tahoe’s water temperature also presents a unique danger to visitors. “Swim smart, swim safe: know the dangers of cold water” is the message coming from public safety agencies at the lake.

“Drowning incidents from boating, paddling and swimming often share the same cause, ‘cold water shock,’ an involuntary gasp reflex caused by sudden immersion in cold water,” according to a joint press release from Lake Tahoe agencies. “Swimmers and boaters suddenly exposed to the cold waters of Lake Tahoe may experience rapid breathing, gasping, fainting, muscle failure and immediate risk of drowning.

“Most of the drownings on Lake Tahoe happen in minutes or even seconds. The best way for boaters, paddlers and swimmers to stay safe is to always wear a life jacket. Even if a boater or paddler does not expect to enter the water, they should prepare for the unexpected.”

Officials at Lake Tahoe are bracing for possible fatal accidents over the Fourth of July holiday. When the weather is warm outside, people are even more vulnerable to cold water shock if they fall in the lake, according to the release.

“We want visitors to enjoy the uniquely beautiful waters of Lake Tahoe, but also be aware of the conditions and prepare themselves for cold water,” Jay Howard, park supervisor at Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park, said in the release.

Boaters are required to carry a life jacket for every person on board any boat, including stand-up paddle boards, kayaks and rafts. Children 12 and younger are required to wear a life jacket on a boat at all times, unless in an enclosed cabin.


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