EUREKA, Calif. — After a relatively harsh winter for the North Coast, many residents are ready to hit the rivers this summer. But while the winter storms may be over, the National Weather Service's (NWS) Eureka Office is warning residents that its lasting effects are not.
"There's a lot of snow up in the [Trinity] Alps, so that snow is going to be flowing down into [the Trinity] River, and it can make it really, really dangerous," NWS Warning Coordination Meteorologist Ryan Aylward said.
So far in 2023, the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office (HCSO) has already responded to five incidents occurring in the ocean or a river with a person requiring assistance. Meanwhile, in all of 2022, the HCSO only responded to three of those types of incidents.
According to Aylward, this is in part because of the increased river flows that have resulted from the several atmospheric rivers, flooding and snow melt that the area experienced in January through March.
"We're still having the water flowing down from the mountains from the snow, but also from the recent rains throughout the winter. So the rivers are still running high as we go into summer," Aylward said.
But the swiftness and cold temperature of the rivers aren't the only threats they currently pose.
"There's debris under the water. Things could have changed. A spot that was safe last year now isn't safe this year." Aylward said.
A good example of this is Swimmer's Delight off of the Van Duzen River near Carlotta. There, a resident caught on video a cliff collapsing into the water in March, due to high saturation of the cliff that resulted from heavy rain.
According to Aylward, in a couple of months, it is likely the snow in the mountains will have all melted and it will have been dry for long enough in the region that residents will be able to safely access the local rivers; but for now, the best practice is to avoid them.