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Playground or danger? Rain-swollen waterways pose risks

Last Updated Sep 23, 2019 at 9:43 am PDT

Torrential rain can push water levels up to -- and even over -- the banks of some creeks along popular trails and the flow of the Capilano and Seymour rivers can vary depending on precipitation, tide and dam operations. (Mike Lloyd, NEWS 1130 Photo)
Summary

Kayakers and other nature lovers are being reminded to be prepared and use caution on the waterways after heavy rain

Be aware of changing conditions and your surroundings when ending up on or near rushing waterways, crews say

'People need to be aware creeks and rivers are flowing a lot higher than normal,' rescue crews say

NORTH SHORE (NEWS 1130) – Many local creeks and rivers are running fast and furious, and that has prompted some warnings from the folks who perform rescues along the North Shore’s waterways.

Torrential rain can push water levels up to — and even over — the banks of some creeks along popular trails and the flow of the Capilano and Seymour rivers can vary depending on precipitation, tide and dam operations.

The whitewater can be a playground for kayakers and others, but one local swift water rescue team is urging people to be prepared and use caution.

“We’ve had quite a substantial amount of rainfall so our water levels are higher than normal,” says Assistant Chief Walt Warner with District of North Vancouver Fire and Rescue. “But as you know, living on the Lower Mainland, that can change on a daily basis.”

His message to anyone who ends up on or near rushing waterways to be aware of changing conditions and their surroundings.

“Travel in pairs, make sure people are aware of where you are and, if you are going to be using the water, make sure you have PFD and helmet,” he tells NEWS 1130, adding as the water rises, so does the level of risk.

“Our members are highly trained and well-equipped for situations unique to the North Shore. We do find that the majority of our swift water rescues are anglers who are maybe unaware that the water is rising at such a rapid rate and they get stuck. Kayakers, for the most apart are well-versed with the conditions and safety measures.”

Warner says the North Shore mountains are a spectacular place to play and he encourages people to come and use the trail systems and waterways.

“But we always want to make sure they are visiting safely. Be aware of the conditions whether it is the Grouse Grind, Lynn Canyon or kayaking down one of our rivers. We have lots of tourism here on the North Shore and sometimes people are caught off guard.”

North Shore Rescue also has plenty of advice for hikers hitting wet and muddy trails along rain-swollen waterways.

“People need to be aware creeks and rivers are flowing a lot higher than normal,” warns team leader Mike Danks. “We always want people to exercise caution around banks, which tend to get washed out and unstable.”

Danks advises hikers to stay well back, and keep their children and pets away from rushing water, as well.

“Pets obviously don’t understand the risk and it is quite common for them to go into the river and get washed down. Our biggest fear is that someone is going to jump in and try to rescue that animal. That just does not turn out well.”

He recommends doing your best to make your way along the trail and keep your eye on the dog as it is swept along.

“Notify emergency services and they will do everything they can to help, but in some of these situations, it may not be feasible for a rescue to happen.”

Danks says the shift in the weather is also a good reminder for hikers to be better-prepared for fewer daylight hours and wetter, colder conditions on the trail.

“Bring extra layers with you, and make sure you have your Gore-Tex layers. The sun is setting earlier so make sure you have a light source and extra batteries. Plan accordingly to keep yourself warm in the current conditions and having a cellphone or satellite device is very key, depending on the hike you’re doing.”

-With files from Lasia Kretzel