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SANDY — After a strong current swept up a young boy in Little Cottonwood Creek and carried him hundreds of yards Thursday, government leaders are warning families and pet owners that streams in northern Utah are swifter than normal.
“There’s still a lot of snow up high, and now that it’s warming up, it’s starting to come off fast," said Salt Lake City Trails and Natural Lands Director Lewis Kogan.
Flows in Little Cottonwood and Bell Canyon streams are triple the rate they were over the last 10 years, a concern exacerbated in places with eroded banks and debris jamming waterways, Sandy leaders said Friday. City crews inspect trouble areas daily to help clear backups.
On Thursday, a 5-year-old boy who was at Murray City Park with his family when he suddenly disappeared from the group, firefighters said. The boy was swept somewhere from one-eighth to one-quarter of a mile downstream before Harlan Wheeler spotted him, jumped in and carried the boy to safety.
Wheeler said he noticed the unconscious boy in the water while waiting for a friend on a bridge.
Crews rushed the child to Intermountain Medical Center, where he was evaluated for hypothermia and aspiration of water. He remained in the hospital in serious but stable condition, said Murray Fire Battalion Chief Joey Mittelman.
Mittelman noted that even experienced adult swimmers shouldn't test the water.
"It's too cold and it's too fast," he said."We've never had a high-flow year like this without multiple rescues."
Utah's water managers have said varied temperatures this spring have helped to limit runoff, though damaging flooding could be possible as snowpack melts.
Swift water can also endanger four-legged loved ones.
Kogan said the streams and creeks that run through city parks can change drastically by the hour this time of year. He advises dog owners to keep Fido out of the water until the runoff period ends.
“Something that a dog jumped into on Tuesday and had no problem could be a different stream on Wednesday,” he said.
Sandy leaders urged people to take these steps to protect their homes and kids:
- Families: Keep close watch on children, making sure they're at least 10 feet from the river and they're not climbing on bridges or fences.
- Homeowners: Make sure you know how high your property is, relative to streams, and move valuable belongings to higher elevation. Determine if nearby areas have a tendency for heavy runoff and remove debris or plants from small waterways on your own property. Prepare a 72-hour kit in case you must leave your home quickly.