With climbing temperatures forecast for the region this week, health officials are warning people to be cautious when cooling off in Sacramento-area rivers, as the rapid melting of Sierra snow creates icy and strong water flows.
Already this Memorial Day weekend, two people drowned in the Mokelumne River in Amador County, while Sacramento deputies pulled from the Georgiana Slough in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta the bodies of a father and baby girl who had been missing since last Monday.
The young man and woman who drowned Saturday in Amador County haven’t been identified yet, but sheriff’s officials said both were believed to be 18 years old. The two were not wearing flotation devices, said Amador County Undersheriff Jim Wegner.
In the Georgiana Slough incident, near Walnut Grove, Sacramento resident Kyler Jackson, 23, and his 1-year-old daughter, Kaylee, were reported missing May 23 when they failed to show up at their home, Sacramento police said. On Sunday night, divers located Jackson’s vehicle in the slough.
Jackson’s body was recovered Saturday afternoon, and his daughter’s body was found Sunday afternoon, according to the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department. There didn’t appear to be foul play involved in the deaths, said sheriff’s Sgt. Tony Turnbull.
The Placer County Sheriff’s Department said one person was missing Sunday night after a boat carrying six people overturned and split in half when it was hit by another craft’s wake at Camp Far West Lake in Wheatland.
Water safety is going to be important this week as the thermometer in Sacramento is forecast to hit 101 degrees by Friday.
National Weather Service meteorologist Karl Swanberg said the heat poses extra risks to waders and swimmers.
“We’re getting high levels of snowmelt occurring with these warm temperatures,” Swanberg said. “The big concern for people recreating this weekend is the water is going to be very cold. It’s snowmelt water.”
Drowning deaths in the Sacramento and American rivers last year more than doubled the 10-year average, according to Sacramento County coroner’s data from August. On the Sacramento River alone, six people drowned in the first eight months of last year. Experts said the drought may have played a role as waterways shrank and swimmers hit unexpected deep spots.
This year, the danger is stronger water flows after the Sierra received heavy snowfall over the winter and spring.
Drowning Accident Rescue Teams started patrolling the Sacramento and American rivers by boat this weekend and will continue to do so all summer. In response to the drowning risk, Sacramento County has launched a marketing campaign with the slogan “Life Looks Good on You” to encourage beachgoers to wear the free life jackets offered at many popular swimming spots.