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Team practices for swift-water rescues


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PROVO CANYON -- Utah's rivers are running high and fast right now, and they're getting worse. That means you could find yourself in a bad, even deadly situation. That's why rescue experts were out Sunday, practicing.

One of the saddest aspects of spring is the fact that kids and even adults are sometimes swept away by the spring runoff. It doesn't look like it's going to be a big year for flooding, but that doesn't mean it's not dangerous.

Salt Lake County's swift-water rescue team went to a neighboring county for their annual training. They practiced rescue scenarios in the Provo River below Jordanelle Dam. They say people often don't realize how dangerous it can be, even around relatively small creeks, in the spring.

Nate Ostis, a swift-water rescue instructor with Wilderness Rescue International, said, "This time of year is a real exciting time for folks to come out and recreate. The temperature's getting warmer, the rivers are looking inviting as they swell. But they're, they look, they're pretty deceptive, our rivers."

Ostis added, "Folks are coming out here and considering doing things like inner-tubing or getting inflatable rafts and jumping in and having a good day in the sun, which is understandable. But they're not always fully aware of the hazards, and in these fast currents people can get swept away pretty darn quick."

If you do wind up unexpectedly in a rushing river, there are a few things you can do to save yourself. First, avoid panic. Experts say you should roll over onto your back with your shoes pointed downriver and try to backstroke your way toward shore.

But if you're being swept toward a dam or a logjam or some other kind of trouble, all bets are off. Roll onto your belly and swim toward shore as hard as you can.

Better yet, be careful around raging streams and try to avoid getting into them and becoming a statistic.

E-mail: hollenhorst@ksl.com

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John Hollenhorst

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