SEATTLE — The warm weather this weekend doesn’t mean the water is warm in western Washington. From lakes to rivers, the temperatures are frigid and can cause cold water shock.
The King County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO) Marine Rescue Unit said there have already been drowning deaths this year.
The cold temperatures restrict breathing and lower your blood pressure. If a person is not wearing a life jacket they can then drown quickly.
“It causes you to gasp and panic a little. So that's a risk," KCSO deputy Matthew Martin said.
Martin said the cold temperatures can be dangerous for even the best swimmers.
Water advocates said now is the time to pull out the life vests to check if they’re ready to go. That checklist includes making sure they fit and checking that there are no holes in them.
"It should be as synonymous as putting on a seatbelt,” the founder of the water safety organization No More Under Chezik Tsunoda said. “When you get in a car you buckle your seat belt. When you're headed to the water, particularly open water, you put on your life jacket."
It is also important to ensure accessories are ready to go. For example, check that you have a leash for your paddleboard. Whistles are also mandatory on all paddleboards.
Tsunoda said 13 people on boats died from drowning in Washington in 2022. Just under 80% of the victims were not wearing life jackets.