Rescue teams say dangers lurk beneath Merced River's fast-flowing waters

MERCED COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- It's getting hotter outside. The snow is melting, and the rivers are flowing.

On Wednesday morning the dive team was patrolling the Merced River looking for any hazards that might affect rescue efforts during the summer months.

"There is zero visibility," said Sgt. Eugene Collins "So when you are going down the river you are unable to see trees that have fallen under water, rocks debris, tires, cement with rebar sticking up that people have dumped because they didn't feel like paying for the county dump fees."

All of these items can create several hazards underwater for rescue crews and civilians.

Officials urging people to stay out of the water, but many don't heed that warning.

"It seems no matter how many warnings we give people always, they really don't listen, and they continue to underestimate the power of the water," Collins said. "They will come out, and there will be accidents and catastrophes, especially when it involved people drinking."

The river might not seem to be fast-moving, but looks are deceiving.

"It might look calm on top, but it's moving very fast on the bottom, and it can sweep you away pretty quickly," said Sgt. Larry Hudec.

He says if you do get swept away, it's best to float on your back with your legs forward and your arms extended."

"The reason being is that there are obstacles in the water with there hands they can guide themselves back to the shore," Hudec said.
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