River warnings ahead of summer swimming season


ST. LOUIS – As the weather starts to warm up more people will be headed out to lakes and rivers to cool off. They can be a great spot to have fun but also a dangerous one.

Fourteen people have drowned in Missouri this year, according to the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

With this weekend’s temperatures expected to be in the 80s, Scott Barthelmass, the division chief of the Eureka Fire Protection District, said there will be a lot of people out in rivers and lakes.

Barthelmass said at the beginning of summer, people think they are stronger swimmers than they really are and sometimes there can be the presence of liquid courage.

“Unfortunately, alcohol is often out on the river and a big factor in some of the drownings we have had over the years,” he said. “We have emphasized for years, ‘Don’t drink and drive,’ and the same is for out on the river. Have fun but not too much fun.”

Barthelmass cautions that even if you are headed to a spot you frequently swam in last summer, don’t expect it to be the same this year. The river goes up and down and when you have flooding, the river changes. There are new undertows and new snags, all the things that cause peril for people.

In places like Castlewood Park, where drownings are common, they have tried to let the brush overgrow the beach so access to the water is difficult, but Barthelmass said people will find another way.

So, if you are going to enjoy some of our beautiful waterways, just be smart so that fun doesn’t turn into tragedy.

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