Truckee River: Fast, high, cold and dangerous

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RENO, NV (KOLO) We expect two things along the Truckee River every spring. First, an increased runoff from the snow pack melt. And with the arrival of warm weather more people will be drawn to the river.

That leads to a third thing we can usually expect, and that's people getting into the river and getting into trouble.

Potentially all those factors come together this weekend, so the river rescue teams from the Reno and Sparks fire departments are ready for a busy time ahead.

"All of the runoff forecasts are predicting a very similar river flow season as 2011 and 2017, which were very high call volumes for us," says Kevin Joell, the Reno Fire Department's Water Entry Team Director.

The flow you are seeing now in the Truckee is about four times higher than the average spring runoff. And he says it's not just the volume and velocity; the water is very cold and the high level hides all sorts of hazards, rocks, brush and other debris.

"So the likelihood of getting caught in what we refer to as a strainer, like a tree downed in the river or a rock sieve where the water is flowing through but a body could be trapped, increases greatly with these flows."

Because there's so much snow above this year and the melt is starting late, these conditions are going to last for a time. Joell says the flows may be dangerous clear into mid-summer.

For those who are prepared, this high flow can be good news, but those who just think this looks like great fun, and buy an inner tube or cheap inflatable and jump in, are putting themselves at risk.

"They're going to find themselves in a situation they've never encountered before and they could find themselves in a life-threatening predicament.

Kayakers and other whitewater enthusiasts are usually well-prepared and trained in self rescue techniques. If you don't have that equipment or those skills, you shouldn't be in the water.

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