The Snake River water is cold so use extreme caution

The Snake River water is cold so use extreme caution »Play Video
Hypothermia can happen fast with water temp. around 40 degrees.
LEWISTON, ID - It's only March but the last week has teased us with some nice balmy weather which may have you thinking about heading to one of our local waterways.

KLEW News takes you to the Snake River where we show you first-hand why it's still not a good idea to take a dip.

The water on the Snake looks pretty calm and smooth today and may look inviting, but one thing you may not realize, the water temperature is in the frigid forties.

"People don't realize that water temperature seventy degrees or colder is classified as cold water," said Asotin County Sheriff's Deputy, Gary Snyder.

"You've got thirty to sixty minutes before you start getting exhausted and become unconscious," said Asotin Co. Fire Dept. Assistant Fire Chief, Mike Hohman.

According to the Washington State Department of Health, the Evergreen State has one of the highest numbers of registered boats in the nation. We're still a few months away from the busy boating season, which is good, because there's a lot of debris in the river, some of it you can't even see.

"When the water level moves up and down that stuff dislodges and starts floating down," said Hohman. "It's just under the water."

And if for some reason, you end up in the cold water, your survival time is very limited because hypothermia can set in very quickly.
And there can be catastrophic consequences for those who spend a significant amount of time in the cold water and survive, like brain damage and permanent loss of basic function.

"Unless you're wearing one of these stay out of the water," said Hohman.

And so to test out the frigid temps, without getting hypothermic, our own Scott Stovall took the plunge with a dry suit.

"When you're in the water without a dry suit or a PFD you could last...well without a PFD you could last ten minutes," said Deputy Snyder. "And you're going to go unconscious because the blood is going to go from your extremities to your vital organs."

"If you have a PFD on you want to clutch up into a ball," said Snyder.

"Without a PFD on there really isn't much you can do except swim for shore," said Snyder.

Even with a dry suit, Scott had difficulty staying in the water for too long. So if you plan to be on or around the water this time of year, be extremely careful. In the Snake River temperatures don't reach the safe zone of seventy degrees until about July.