Don’t get in the water: Melting snow creates strong rivers

May 22, 2020, 12:47 PM
Little Cottonwood Creek. File photo courtesy of

SALT LAKE COUNTY — Snow melt is not only making Utah’s streams, rivers and lakes icy cold — it’s also creating strong, fast-moving water.

Sgt. Melody Gray of Unified Police Department says there’s also another danger. 

“Because of the slides over this winter, there’s a lot of debris coming down those rivers from the canyons above.” 

Little Cottonwood River is particularly bad.

“All of Utah’s rivers are dangerous right now,” Gray said. But the streams in Millcreek, Provo, Weber and Big and Little Cottonwood canyons were specifically mentioned.

Unified Fire Authority spokesman Matthew MacFarland says staying away from the edge of strong rivers is the best way to keep yourself safe.  

“The water is moving so fast right now, it will sweep an adult off their feet when it is just above their ankles,” MacFarland said. “The icy cold water will incapacitate a person in minutes.”

Life jackets are important to wear, but make sure they fit correctly — as a child is more likely to drown if wearing a jacket that is too big for them. 

“Wearing a life jacket is very important when near water, even if you don’t intend to wade in,” MacFarland said. “And make sure it fits correctly.” 

If you, your child or your pet does fall into fast moving water, MacFarland said don’t jump in after them — because you are likely to become a second victim. He says to maintain eye contact and follow them along the shore, coaching them on how and where to get out.

“If you are in the water, point your feet downstream, and then tuck your knees up, like you’re sitting in a chair,” MacFarland said. “Your feet will protect you from rocks or debris as you are swept downriver.”

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Don’t get in the water: Melting snow creates strong rivers