Stay out of the Kings River for now - it's dangerous

Heavy snowmelt has led to an early flood release along the Kings River.

Right now water is being released from Pine Flat Dam at 8600 cubic feet per second. Think 8600 basketballs per second.

It's pretty to look at but the strong current can be very dangerous.

Pine Flat Dam is being fed by a snowpack which is 151% of normal right now.

The release is so strong it's creating white water as it rapidly flows down the Kings River and sends waves to the shore.

"Anybody who hasn't been seeing the river for a few days is going to be really surprised at how much higher it is. It's also very swift and very, very cold," said Randy McFarland of the Kings River Water Association.

Good reasons to stay out of the water.

Lt. Joe Smith of the Fresno County Sheriff's Office Boating Enforcement Unit says deputies aren't even on the river yet.

"So we'll start patrolling the Thursday just before Memorial Day weekend."

The water looks so inviting but now's not the time to get in.

"If you actually get underneath the surface, even up to your chest, some people don't realize how cold that water is and after a couple of minutes your muscles will start to lock up," said Lt. Smith.

Randy McFarland of the Kings River Water Association says a lot the water being sent through the Kings will be used by valley farmers for irrigation.

"A lot of this is going to groundwater recharge, which is so important. We over-taxed our groundwater supply during the drought," he says.

Pine Flat is 73% full right now.

The flood release at Pine Flat should last one to four weeks but could last well into the summer.
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