King County Sheriff's Office gives boating and water safety tips ahead of warm weekend

BLACK DIAMOND, Wash. -- After several weeks of being cooped indoors due to the COVID-19 pandemic, people are getting a head start on their weekend at parks and beaches to enjoy the warm weather.

Temperatures are forecast to reach above 80 degrees. However, waters are not as warm or safe this time of year as some may think. The King County Sheriff’s Office has a word of caution for people before they decide to take a dive.

“Even though the air temperature may be very warm, the water temperature is still very, very cold. So, people need to dress appropriately for that—wear their life jacket, have a plan, preferably be with someone else out on the water,” said Sgt. Mark Rorvik, of the county’s Marine Rescue Dive Unit.

    Rorvik said lakes, streams and rivers are still frigid from winter and mountain run-off.

    “The majority of our drownings do occur in rivers. Rivers are obviously very cold all year long. And you have swift moving water, you’ve got obstacles like logs, rocks,” said Rorvik.

    He also said people who take the risk of jumping into the numbing water could send their bodies into immediate shock called “Cold Water Immersion.”

    “If you inhale water during that voluntary gasp reflex, which you can’t control, you’re more than likely going to drown. If you’re able to stay above the water, you’ve got two to three minutes before your muscles, your arms and legs start to become inoperable and you probably have about 30 minutes before hypothermia sets in.,” said Rorvik.

    Marine Rescue Dive Unit patrols will be keeping close watch this weekend at Lake Washington and Lake Sammamish. Rorvik said those two places are where they expect to see the most activity. He said they will also look out for boaters to meet licensing and maintenance requirements.

    “Have all the safety equipment that you’re required to have by law. And we highly, highly encourage everybody to wear a life jacket while on board,” said Rorvik.

    Crystal Landcaster and her children had some much-needed fun in the sun along Green River at Flaming Geyser State Park, Friday. They visited the park early in the day to help reduce their exposure to the coronavirus.

    “As much we want to get out, I want to stay safe. I’m scared just like everybody else. But I’m also dying to get out. We live in the Pacific Northwest, it’s a beautiful place,” said Landcaster.

    While maintaining social distance from other visitors, Landcaster stayed close to her kids as they splashed around in the shallow edge of the river.

    “It is ice cold. I cannot believe my son is fully submerging himself,” said Landcaster. “You just have to make sure you keep your eye on them at all times because accidents happen.”