OLYMPIA, Wash. - As a rash of boating accidents and fatalities hits the Northwest, Washington State Parks, the U.S. Coast Guard and the National Weather Service urge boaters to be very cautious on the water this weekend and always wear lifejackets.
Washington will see its third warm spring weekend in a row. According to Ted Buehner of the National Weather Service, temperatures across the east side of the state will be their warmest this season – in the 70s to lower 80s. On the west side, temperatures will be in the 60s and could even reach 70 in some places. Though temperatures will be unseasonably warm, waters will remain cold. Most river and creek temperatures across the state are in the mid 30s to mid 40s – temperatures that can easily cause hypothermia, according to Katherine Rowden, a hydrologist for the National Weather Service.
According to Washington State Parks accident data, there have been five non-motorized boating fatalities since March 17, 2012, which is more than in any other year since 2002. This rash of small craft accidents continues with at least two more accidents involving three people this past weekend. One accident occurred on the Chehalis River, where a man is still missing following an annual rafting event near Pe Ell. The other accident occurred off Blake Island and involved a canoe that capsized with two individuals; it’s unclear if any of them were wearing life jackets.