Penticton river channel rescuers urge caution as flows remain high | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Penticton river channel rescuers urge caution as flows remain high

Okanagan river channel floaters are urged to use extra caution on the channel this year as river flows and levels remain stubbornly high.
July 17, 2020 - 7:30 AM

With improving weather and increasing usage of the Okanagan River channel, Penticton Fire Department Deputy Fire Chief Chris Forster is warning channel floaters of continuing heightened dangers due to persistently high flows this year.

His caution comes on the heels of two nearly back-to-back rescues the fire department responded to on the channel on Tuesday, July 14.

Forster says one channel floater was rescued by a jet ski operator prior to the fire department’s arrival.

The other involved a family whose tubes overturned. Although none had life jackets and no one could swim, they managed to make it to shore where they were assisted out of the water.

“They suddenly realized what they were dealing with and didn’t even want their tubes back,” Forster says.

He says the concern is when there are higher levels of water and it is faster flowing, the conditions are more precarious.

“We can’t close it down, it’s a federal waterway. All we can do is advise caution and take necessary steps to be as safe as possible,” he says.

Fortunately, the department has had no further calls since Tuesday, but Forster says now that it’s mid-July and tourist season, along with an improving forecast, people are going to be tubing the channel in increasing numbers.

He says one saving grace is with numbers on the channel, there’s usually help readily available.

“It's human nature for people to help one another but still, it only takes seconds to drown. Conditions of this year’s freshet means water is being constantly released from the dam on Okanagan Lake, and will be for some time,” he says.

Dam operator Shaun Reimer says water is flowing through the channel at a rate more than double the normal rate for mid July.

“It is likely we will have to continue the current outflow for another week or two until the lake is back in our operating range, but even then, flows will continue to be higher than normal... through August,” Reimer said in an email July 16.

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