Officials urge safety around swift, cold river waters

With the forecast for toasty temperatures in the triple digits, area lakes and rivers are expected to draw Independence Day crowds. But public safety officials warn that rivers are flowing swifter and higher than usual for the July 4 weekend.

The California Department of Boating and Waterways predicts that this will be a dangerous summer for water enthusiasts. Officials reported that more boaters have died in swift-water river accidents in the first six months of 2011 than during any comparable period on record.

Rivers are running faster and colder than usual, and lakes are higher, masking underwater hazards that were exposed in previous years, Lucia Becerra, acting director of the Department of Boating and Waterways, said in a written statement.

One of the biggest safety concerns, officials said, is the use of flotation devices, such as lightweight rafts which typically are designed for swimming pools or calm waters. They warn that these devices can easily lose air or be punctured by debris or tree branches, and should not be used during this period of high, swift and cold water conditions.

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