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Stay safe on the water this warm weekend: Clark County Public Health urges caution in area's cold, fast-moving waters

Columbian - 5/11/2024

May 11—It's an unusually warm weekend for mid-May. The National Weather Service predicts today will be sunny and could reach 89 degrees, with just the faintest of breezes cooling things off. Sunday will also be sunny, with a high temperature near 81 degrees.

People will be out and about in the sunshine — and on the water.

Clark County Public Health urges everyone to remember that lakes and rivers are still cold, and flowing water may be moving quickly.

"Temperatures may be warming up this weekend, but lakes and rivers are still cold enough to shock and immobilize even the strongest swimmers," said Dr. Alan Melnick, Clark County health officer and Public Health director.

Don't forget to take sensible precautions if you're planning on water recreation this weekend (and throughout the summer). Here are tips from Clark County Public Health:

— Know your limits. Drowning often occurs when swimmers tire.

— Avoid fast-flowing waters, including rivers and ocean beaches with riptides.

— Don't swim alone.

— Adults should always supervise children when they are in or near water. Avoid distractions at those times. Supervision requires complete attention, even if another adult is present. Drowning can happen swiftly and silently.

— Always wear a life jacket. Children, teens and adults should wear life jackets while swimming in lakes, rivers or the ocean, as well as while boating, using a personal watercraft or inner tubing. By law, children 12 and younger must wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket or vest on all vessels 18 feet or smaller.

— Avoid alcohol and marijuana use when swimming or boating.

— Don't dive into shallow water or jump off bridges or cliffs.

— Swim in designated swimming areas only. Watch for signs that let you know when and where it's safe to swim.

— Teach children how to swim. Enroll children in swim lessons when they are ready. Early and frequent swim lessons will teach children the skills needed to stay safe while in and around water.

Water monitoring

Because warm weather has arrived, Clark County Public Health will begin summer swim-beach water quality monitoring early this year.

Starting Monday, Public Health will monitor the water quality at the county's three designated swim beaches: Vancouver Lake, Klineline Pond and Battle Ground Lake. Every two weeks throughout the summer, Public Health will check the water there for bacteria that could make swimmers sick. This swim-beach monitoring program usually begins after Memorial Day.

Public Health will issue advisories if bacteria levels exceed state thresholds and pose a risk to people swimming or wading in the water. Signs will be posted at swim beaches with advisories, and information about advisories will be posted on Public Health's website and social media. People can also subscribe to Public Health's weekly newsletter, In the Splash, to receive advisory updates via email every Friday.

Public Health also monitors local waterbodies and designated swim beaches for harmful algal blooms that can pose a health risk to people and can be fatal to pets. They are known to occur at several Clark County waterbodies, but none have been identified so far this year.

Members of the public can report algal blooms on the Public Health website.

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