Wear a life vest and stay alive on the Spokane River

Wear a life vest and stay alive on the Spokane River

SPOKANE, Wash. - The forecast is calling for temperatures in the 70s next week and that means people will soon be heading to out lakes and rivers for some fun on the water, which means its time for a quick refresher on how to stay safe on area waterways.

On Thursday Avista Utilities teamed up with Spokane County's marine deputies to let people know accidental drownings can happen very quickly this time of year.

Along the shoreline of the Spokane River you can see bald eagles and blue herons, a totally different way to look out our area. In fact paddling is a great way to silently sneak up on wildlife while rafting the Spokane River, but running the river is not without its risks. Right now the 43 degree water can freeze up even the best of swimmers in a matter of seconds.

"The 50-50-50 rule is in theory. You have a 50-50 percent chance of survival swimming 50 yards in 50 degree water," Spokane Co. Sheriff's Deputy Jim Ebel said.

Most people who drown never intended to be in the water that day. They stand up or are bumped out of their boat and the surprise of entering the water literally takes their breath away. Deputies say the best way to give your mind and lungs to catch up is by doing all your paddling and tubing inside a life vest. Almost every body the sheriff's dive team has ever recovered wasn't wearing one.

"This is going to keep you afloat, keep your head out of the water so you can calm down, take your deep breaths, save yourself, get to shore," Ebel said.

Floaters also have to be on the look out for "strainers". A lot of people drown when the river's current pins them underwater in these tangles of branches and downed trees. Avista warns the same thing can happen when boaters ignore signs about hydropower projects ahead.

"If you go beyond that boater safety cable you could be pulled under water, because water is being pulled into those penstocks and again, that would be a very dangerous place to be," Mac Mikkelsen with Avista said.

The Spokane River is a beautiful place where you can recreate with your family but if your don't have the right equipment, skills and knowledge about what's ahead downstream, it can quickly ruin your day.