on June 25, 2015 at 2:40 PM, updated June 25, 2015 at 11:02 PM
The Huron River has seen more activity in the past week than usual.
Not necessarily in terms of river-goers, but in terms of rescues. Recent rains have swelled the river to the point that it can be dangerous.
On June 23, a woman was rescued by a party store clerk when she went out tubing.
Then on June 24, three girls were rescued after being swept away by the current when they were out tubing.
“You have to know your experience level,” said Cheryl Saam, recreation supervisor of both Gallup Park Canoe and Argo Livery.
According to Saam, the people rescued on the river this week were in their own tubes and entered the river at unknown locations.
The past couple days have seen warm, and, as Saam described it, “gorgeous” weather, which only complicates the issue of river safety.
This combination can deceive river-goers who think it’s fine to go out on the water when in reality, they should stay on the ground.
Generally, the water tends to be higher in the earlier spring months of April and May. But Saam noted that during that time of the year, there are fewer people on the water, and the ones who are on the water are usually experienced.
The fact the water is so high and it’s the end of June when more casual recreation seekers tend to use the river creates a challenging situation.
Ann Arbor’s canoe liveries do have a strict policy in place when water is high and fast moving.
For example, if the water is flowing at 1,000 cubic feet per second (cfs), there are no river trips allowed.
To put it in perspective, one cubic foot of water, moving at 6 mph, will exert a force of roughly 134 pounds, according to Craig Sidelinger of the Ann Arbor Fire Department.
Early on June 23, a large amount of rain caused the river to flow over 2,000 cfs, so the river trips were closed.
Ann Arbor averaged around 1.56 inches of rainfall across the city’s five rain gauges in the past week, according to the website that tracks rainfall.
According to Saam, all of last week and even up to today, the river was flowing at near record height. The data is tracked via gauges along the river. Thursday’s rate is 1,380 cfs, which is just under the record of 1,550 cfs which was set in 1968, according to theUSGS.
“It’s just unusual,” she said of the high numbers.
She is hoping that the rates continue to drop and that everything can be reopened in the next day or two.
Saam had some simple advice as to what to do if someone gets caught up in the river.
The basics include wearing a life jacket and staying in the middle of the river to avoid obstacles.
If people think they’re in trouble, they simply have to get out of the river, she said. Given that the riverside is a popular spot for people to walk and run, especially in Ann Arbor, yelling for help or calling the fire department is the best bet, she said.
Staff at both liveries also receive training from the Ann Arbor Fire Department.
Sidelinger, who’s the department’s training officer, also had some advice.
Staying calm is important, he said. Panic only causes the situation to worsen. It’s also a bad idea to swim against the current, as it will tire people. Instead, Sidelinger advises to swim perpendicular to the current.
For bystanders, their best option is to call for help and not attempt to swim out to the people in the water. According to Sidelinger, often times would-be rescuers become victims themselves.
“People often underestimate the power of water,” said Sidelinger. “It is a force to be reckoned with, and it should be respected.”
Argo and Gallup canoe liveries are open for stillwater paddles on 2-mile pond sections of the river where it’s been dammed.
Despite having two incidents in the past week, Saam said it’s quite rare for people to require a rescue on the Huron River. When it does happen, however, she said it happens to people who are novices.
“The water level fluctuates so quickly,” she said. “It’s a dynamic nature situation. You just have to be aware of your surroundings.”
Jack Walsworth is an intern reporter for The Ann Arbor News. Contact him email at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter.