Parley’s Creek is normally the kind of stream that dogs play in along the nature walk at Salt Lake City’s Tanner Park. But a woman died recently trying to rescue her two dogs that had been swept into its current.
Northern Utah weather and safety officials are worried about the drowning risks that lie ahead.
“We’re trying to limit this [hazard] as much as possible by getting the word out,” says Brian McInerney, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service.
A big snowpack this year is going to mean an equally big – and more dangerous – runoff. Drowning hazards are expected to grow as the snow melts and streams swell.
“We’re going to have very, very high levels, high peak flows, rapid-moving water, and it’s incredibly dangerous,” says McInerney.
This year the snowpack is roughly 60 percent higher than normal throughout northern Utah.
And the runoff season is just getting rolling, with mountain streams already running fast and likely to stay big for another two months. McInerney expects record spring flows.
He warns that even lake-water could pose an exceptional risk when the warm weather begins luring people and pets into the water. “Understand: It’s going to be cold, take-your-breath-away cold.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control, there’s an average of 3,536 accidental drowning deaths a year that are not related to boating. That’s about ten a day. And 20 percent of the victims are children.