Forest Service Advising Caution On Waterways With Heat, Snowmelt
The Forest Service is advising visitors to the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest to stay away from waterways.
Current conditions with temperatures in the upper 80's most days are leading to rapid snowmelt, which is feeding directly into streams and rivers.
National Forest spokesperson Robin DeMario says the waterways are running extremely high, fast and cold, which is dangerous.
"We just encourage people to not go in yet," said DeMario. "Wait until later in the summer when the water level has decreased quite a bit and things are not so cold and hazardous."
There's already been one death that occurred after a man with a medical condition hit the water when his raft overturned on the Wenatchee River.
The man in his 40s was in wearing a wet suit and flotation device, but still died after being helped to shore by people who were with him.
Shawn Ballard with Ballard Ambulance in Wenatchee says even strong swimmers can be challenged to even get moving in water that's so cold and fast moving.
The Forest Service is advising visitors to know the signs of hypothermia if they choose to venture into the water, and dress appropriately.
Another issue with current conditions is the saturation of stream banks, which are absorbing the high water as well as recent rainfall in the forest.
Demario says stream banks are now prone to sluffing off.
"We just encourage people to be aware of their surroundings, make sure their footing is good," DeMario said. "Don't go to the very edge of a stream bank, because there is potential for that sluffing off to occur, especially during high water."
Streams and rivers in the forest reach their daily high-level mark during the afternoon when rapid snow melt is occurring.
In addition, the Forest Service is advising the public to be aware of the growing presence of ticks and snakes as the weather warms up.
The Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest encompasses 3.8 million acres along the east slopes of the Cascade Range, including large portions of Okanogan, Chelan Kittitas and Yakima counties.
About 80 percent of the lands in Chelan County are owned by the Forest Service.