Across The Universe: Common sense key for Tahoe-Truckee water safety | SierraSun.com

Across The Universe: Common sense key for Tahoe-Truckee water safety

After four straight mild and dry winters, to say the Tahoe-Truckee region was counting on a strong winter this past season is a major understatement.

Luckily, Mother Nature returned to her familiar ways, and we were graced with more than 500 inches of snow this year. All that snow, coupled with the in-and-out bouts of rain we've had the past several months, will undoubtedly set us up for a very busy summer season, both in terms of tourism business and recreation opportunities.

Regarding the latter, Lake Tahoe is thankfully above its natural rim again, meaning boat ramps like Sand Harbor will be open this summer. Plus, we have a Truckee River again, and with all our other smaller creeks and streams also flowing strong, kayaking, rafting and all kinds of fun await us this spring and summer.

But with the return of water also comes the inevitable forgetfulness for some people about proper safety measures and common sense.

This past weekend, emergency personnel in Reno worked to rescue four people from the Truckee River near Crissie Caughlin Park after they fell off a flotation device.

According to the Associated Press, Reno Fire Department Chief Dirk Minore said none of the victims were wearing life jackets, but, thankfully, all were conscious and breathing when rescued Sunday afternoon. They were reportedly hospitalized with minor injuries and hypothermia, and are expected to recover.

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"Minore says the three women and a man were using a float ring designed for a pool that was insufficient for Truckee River conditions," according to the AP.

Sunday marked the latest incident this spring of people having to be saved from the strong Truckee River flows down the hill — incidents that could have been prevented.

The same is true here at Lake Tahoe and Truckee. If you plan on kayaking, canoeing or floating the Truckee River between Tahoe City and Alpine Meadows — or, navigating the more challenging portion between Truckee and Glenshire — it's important to wear life jackets.

Those river currents might look harmless from the shore, but they can quickly sweep you off your feet, putting you in danger of drowning and/or causing serious injury by crashing into the jagged rocks below.

Also, pet-owners who like to take their furry friends on hikes need to be mindful that smaller animals, especially dogs, may not be strong enough to battle quick currents within creeks and streams throughout the region.

Equally important is to remember to carry life jackets when on Lake Tahoe, whether you're on a boat, stand-up paddleboard or any sort of flotation device. The spring and summer air at Tahoe is warm, but the lake's waters are very cold, which can easily take your breath away when diving or falling in.

As of Tuesday morning, the average temperature at Lake Tahoe's mid-lake buoys was measured at just 49.6 degrees, according to the National Weather Service in Reno.

There are several websites out there that provide all kinds of tips and hints relative to safety on the water. One I prefer is dbw.ca.gov/Boaterinfo/LifeJacketinfo.aspx, with information from the California State Parks Division of Boating and Waterways.

On that website, the state lists the following statistic: "Of the boating fatalities that occurred in 2009, 67 percent of the victims drowned. Of that group, 84 percent were not wearing a life jacket."

Not that I needed a nudge, but that's reason enough to take the extra few precautions, both time- and money-wise, to ensure the safety of both myself and others around me.

Kevin MacMillan is managing editor of the Sierra Sun and North Lake Tahoe Bonanza. He may be reached at kmacmillan@sierasun.com.