Spring River and Stream Safety

Most people who live in the northern states love winter. It’s pretty much a prerequisite for living in a state that gets several feet of snow every year. Those who can’t hack it have already moved south to warmer climates. Those who remain look forward to winter for its beauty, and to take part in activities like skiing. But even people who don’t mind the cold and the snow look forward to spring when all the trees and flowers begin blooming again, and the weather warms up. Just as winter brings certain risks with it — blizzards, avalanches, and frozen power lines — so does spring. As all that snow and ice begins to melt, rivers and streams rise, sometimes to dangerous levels. Being aware means being safe.

Living away from urban areas is still something that a lot of people aspire to. You may have built your home on a wooded lot, with a stream or river running through the property. While this is a highly desirable place to live, it can be dangerous during the spring thaw. Fast-rushing streams and rivers can be quite attractive to children. Seeing the water rush by is exciting, especially if it’s not the normal state for that body of water. Kids get curious, or imagine themselves as explorers, and can get too close to the water.

It only takes a moment for a child to lose his footing and tumble into rapidly running water. Even a child who can swim can quickly become tired just trying to keep his head above water in a fast-moving river. The safest thing to do is keep your kids away from the water at all times. High water levels or not, a river can be dangerous. If they’re old enough, talk to your kids about the dangers so they’re at least aware if you can’t be with them all the time.

The same goes for your pets. Dogs are natural swimmers, but it takes a lot of energy to stay afloat in rushing water. There’s also a danger of running into rocks or tree branches, and not being able to move out of the way quickly enough. Keep your kids and your pets safely in sight until the water levels go down again.

When some roads are built, they go through areas that perhaps were once part of a river or stream that has since dried up, or through low-lying areas that are vulnerable to a build-up of water if conditions are right. These low water crossings are usually very well marked, and should be avoided if river and stream levels are high at the beginning of spring, or during heavy downpours. Trying to drive through a low water crossing because you think your vehicle is sturdy enough to make it, or because you don’t want to add time to your route by taking a detour, is dangerous and foolhardy.

Every year, people try to drive through low water crossings, and it usually turns out badly. The vehicle passengers end up having to be pulled out of the water by rescue workers, mildly injured if they’re lucky. Some people end up drowning in their cars before rescue teams can reach them. Even those who make it out with just a few cuts and bruises will have an auto insurance nightmare to deal with. Comprehensive coverage does address water damage to a vehicle, but your premiums are sure to skyrocket under the circumstances, because it may not be considered a vehicle accident if you drove into it willingly. Save yourself, your passengers, and your wallet by simply avoiding low water crossings until they’re safe to navigate.

Staying safe during the spring thaw is really a matter of common sense. Be aware of your surroundings, keep an eye on your kids and pets, and obey road warnings. Water levels will return to normal soon enough, and you’ll be able to enjoy spring and the coming summer with your family.