Are you an expert-level whitewater paddler?
Or, like most of us, do you simply enjoy a leisurely summer float down a lazy stretch of river?
This year, more people than ever before are dipping their toes, tubes and rented kayaks in our local waterways for the first time.
And many of them are not familiar with the 3Ps of moving water: Moving water is:
"Moving water is a force to be reckoned with—or more wisely, not reckoned with," says Carilion Clinic trauma nurse specialist Sarah Beth Dinwiddie. "It is persistent and will not let up. It does not take into consideration a person’s experience, ability or preparation. And it is predictable—moving water can be read and river features can be understood."
Moving water is unpredictable at flood stage, however, when you don't know what has been washed into the river or when the banks have disappeared due to high water levels.
As we prepare for the remnants of Hurricane Isaias to arrive in our valleys this week, Sarah Beth spoke with WSLS about flash floods and the very real risk of drowning.
"We’ve seen a lot of people enjoying our local rivers in kayaks and tubes which is great," she said, "but as flash floods are coming in and a hurricane coming in, it is not time to get out on the river.”
Anyone who plans on being near creeks and rivers in our region to be vigilant over the next several days as heavy rain may cause potential flash flooding, and damaged tree limbs can create "strainers" or entanglements below and above the water.
That's especially true in Roanoke, where the adjacent Roanoke River Greenway overflows its banks regularly, potentially making it unsafe for kayakers or floaters—even expert-level whitewater paddlers!
A Better Approach
If you have enjoyed our local blueways or would like to learn more about how to enjoy them, Sarah Beth recommends taking a paddle sports safety course such as those offered by the American Canoe Association.
"And remember," says Sarah Beth," always were a Coast Guard-approved life jacket that is properly fitted and fastened."
Turn Around, Don't Drown
Sarah Beth also reminds people to avoid driving near rivers or in other low spots, especially once water is visible.
As Sarah Beth reminds us, “Our local roadways seem to be covered in water pretty quickly when we get significant rainfall."