High waters pose dangers for all

Jul 10, 2013

The mountains and rivers of Western North Carolina are a mecca for outdoors activities and attract thousands of adventure seekers each year.

For some, part of the adventure is to pit their skills against those of Mother Nature, something that’s particularly dangerous during high waters or bad weather. Those daring enough to take a voyage down the river need to know they are not only putting themselves, but others as well.

In Haywood County, we are fortunate to have officers, firefighters and rescuers that put their lives on the line everyday to save others in trouble. But thrill seekers shouldn’t ignore weather warnings and willingly put themselves in harm’s way.

In the last week, the region has been under numerous severe thunderstorm and flash flood warnings. The French Broad River was under a flood warning until today — yet Asheville rescuers have had five swift-water rescues since July 1.

Haywood County has had two major water rescues in the last week. A kayaker from Kentucky was found dead in the Pigeon River on Friday after being turned over in the rough water.

The search effort included U.S. Forest Service, Haywood County Emergency Management, sheriff’s office, 911, EMS and several county rescue squads and fire departments. The search continued for more than 24 hours before the kayaker was found.

Luckily, two teenage boys were found alive after getting stuck in a hydraulic while tubing down the Pigeon on Sunday. Even if waters aren’t dangerous, amateur rafters, tubers and kayakers can be in danger because they are often unfamiliar with the body of water they are entering.

When those attempting to enjoy an outdoor activity get in trouble, thankfully there are trained volunteers standing ready to help. These volunteers often put their own lives on the line to help others.

Before you venture out in search of an adverture that could go sour, especially during inclement weather, take into consideration the people who may be awoken in the middle of the night to come find you. These volunteers should not be put in unnecessary jeopardy, especially in bad weather, while their own families sit at home stressed.

We want everyone to have a safe trip and enjoyable memories to take home with them from our community, but tragedies stick with us for much longer.