Heading to the river this weekend? Here's what you should know
TRI-CITIES, Wash. -- The Columbia River is moving swiftly and water levels are still high just days before the unofficial start to summer.
The sidewalk at Howard Amon park is once again under water, signs are underwater, and the current has pushed some debris onto the docks.
Officials said the river’s current is moving faster than normal.
“If you can imagine swimming against five to 10 miles-per-hour, and you're prepared to do that, that's what you need to consider before you get in the water,” said Chief Jesse Bruce, Officer in Charge at United States Coast Guard.
Bruce said normal current speeds are less than half of that--but he won't tell you not to go out on the river this weekend.
“Nobody can deem whether it's safe for you and your situation, other than the craft that you have,” he said.
Bruce said you must make the choice by considering your skill level, preparation, and water conditions.
“You have to assess the best you can,” he said.
Noticeably higher water levels bring their own challenges when boating or swimming.
“Certain areas or rocks that are normally above the water and viewable that are now snags or obstructions under the water and unviewable could be potential hazards,” Bruce said.
So he said if you're boating, stay towards the center of the channel.
Keep an eye on the current, wear a lifejacket, and use a leash if you’re paddle boarding.
“Always be prepared that you may go in the water,” Bruce said.
Speaking of water--it's still cold.
“You take 80 to 90 degrees outside and you jump in 50 to 57 degrees, it's going to be a cold, hard shock of reality,” he said.
Don't hesitate to call 911 in an emergency.
“Stay safe,” he said. “Have fun but stay safe.”
Some docks or piers you usually go to might not be usable because of flooding.
And remember--alcohol and water don't mix.