It’s summer time (finally!) here in the Sacramento area and one of the biggest places to cool off is at the Sacramento or American River. Thousands of people flock from all over to go take a dip, go whitewater rafting or just to have a camp out, but if you live close to downtown Sacramento then you know how dangerous these rivers can be.
Right outside the city near Raley Field and the Crocker Art Museum is where the Sacramento and American rivers meet, better known as the confluence. Residents and tourist are warned each year of how dangerous the confluence can be.
“What happens is individuals will come out on the little shores along the beach,” says Jim Remick, a training coordinator for the Sacramento Drowning Accident Rescue Team, or DART. “Visitors will walk out to water they can contact the bottom with and then it just drops off. Once it drops off, they don’t understand that the water is so cold that their muscles start to tense up a little bit in their legs, they go upright and then slide right under the water.”
According to the Sacramento County Coroner's Office, in 2015, 13 people lost their lives by drowning, eleven of those deaths were during the hotter months. It was more than twice as many in an average year of the past twelve years. When it comes to 2017, we have already seen several drowning incidents reported due to the record snow and rain falls.
So if you’re stuck in a river with a really strong current, what should you do? Rivers can be like natural treadmills and be fast enough to sweep you off your feet easily. Most methods that experts recommend is going down on your back. Make sure your feet are pointed downstream and your head positioned upstream. This will keep your head protected and make sure to help keep your head above water.
You should also be as calm as possible to help keep you from swallowing a lot of water. Once you are calm, continue to look downstream for a calmer part of the river. When reaching a lower flowing area, flip over and swim diagonally toward show and with current flow.
If you can’t find a way out of the river, stay calm and call or wave for emergency help.