June 6, 2014

Merced officials urge water safety with rising temperatures

With temperatures rising this weekend, many people will look to cool off by jumping into pools, rivers, lakes and any other open waterways.

With temperatures rising this weekend, many people will look to cool off by jumping into pools, rivers, lakes and open waterways.

According to National Weather Service forecasts, Merced is expected to reach 104 degrees by Sunday afternoon. Monday’s temperature will reach 105, and the rest of next week will remain in the high 90s.

The thought of going for a quick swim is tempting but one that can carry considerable risk. Jeff Horta, Merced Fire Department battalion chief, said children playing near open waterways and irrigation canals can result in accidents.

“We’re always concerned, especially around this time of year, because kids are out of school and they like to play around creeks and canals; but that’s not the place for children to be at,” Horta said.

Mike Jensen, a spokesman for the Merced Irrigation District, said the agency has worked to increase its water safety education efforts. Jensen asks people to stay away from canals as they are built to deliver water to farmers and not for swimming or recreation. Canals are dangerous because they have underwater pipes and gates that can be hard to see, he said.

Jensen also said that people should remember that banks around these canals are slippery, making it hard to climb out safely.

According to MID, the easiest way to stay safe in canals is to stay out. Jensen also suggests never trying to rescue someone who has fallen into a canal and to instead call 911 and look for help nearby.

The California Department of Water Resources urges the public to practice certain safety procedures when near lakes or rivers. The department’s website offers various tips on how to be safe near water sources. Some of these tips include swimming in pairs, wearing flotation devices, obeying all hazard signs, and knowing your swimming limitations.

While children are usually the main concern, adults are not exempt from water-related accidents. Last July, two male adults died in Lake Yosemite after jumping from a pier near the lake’s main beach, according to the Merced County Sheriff’s Department. Because of incidents such as these, officials ask adults to mind warning signs posted near the water and follow safety precautions.

The Water Resources Department also suggests never mixing alcohol with water activities. According to its website, drinking alcoholic beverages plays a major role in accidents and deaths that occur in public recreational areas. For more safety tips, go to the California Department of Water Resources at www.water.ca.gov.

Other ways to beat the heat are remaining indoors in air-conditioned spaces and staying hydrated.

Despite the anticipated heat, Merced will host a half-marathon Sunday. Event organizers have scheduled the half-marathon for 7 a.m. in an attempt to beat high temperatures.

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