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Temperatures are soaring in Portland this weekend, but the water is still cold

With temperatures expected to shoot into the 90s this weekend, authorities are warning people to take precautions boating or swimming in rivers and lakes.
Credit: KGW

PORTLAND, Ore. — Portland-area temperatures are expected to soar into the 90s this weekend, likely sending residents flocking to local rivers and lakes to cool off, but authorities are warning swimmers that the water is likely to be very chilly despite the sunny skies.

Oregon has built up an exceptionally large snowpack over an unusually cold winter and spring, and while the slow melt-out is great for driving back the start of wildfire season and making a dent in the state's drought, it means local streams and rivers will still be frigid at the moment.

"Every year when the first warm temperatures arrive, many people decide to cool off by hitting the water," Brian Paulsen, Boating Safety Program Manager for the Oregon Marine Board, said in a statement. "With the great snowpack, you can guarantee as it's melting it's going to be frigid. It's incredibly important everyone wear a life jacket and dress for the water temperature, not the air temperature."

Most of Oregon's lakes and rivers stay below 70 degrees for most of the year, and tend to be in the low 50s. As of early Wednesday afternoon, the US Geological Survey's National Water Dashboard listed the following temperatures at Portland-area monitoring stations:

  • Willamette River in downtown Portland: 54.7 degrees
  • Columbia River at Bonneville Dam: 54.1 degrees
  • Little Sandy River near Bull Run: 45.5 degrees
  • Tualatin River near West Linn: 57.2 degrees
  • Clackamas River in Oregon City: 49.3 degrees

Cold water shock is a leading cause of drowning, the board cautioned, and cold water immersion can cause hypothermia even if air temperatures are hot. The National Weather Service issued a similar warning Tuesday on social media.

The board also emphasized the importance of wearing life jackets when in and around the water. Oregon saw 16 recreational boating fatalities last year, according to the agency, and 10 of the victims were not wearing life jackets.

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