Officials warn of still-frigid water dangers as air temps heat up this weekend

From Thursday into the weekend, we can expect blue skies with temperatures closer to 70 and 80 degrees. While Washington's many bodies of water may seem like a great option to cool off in, officials are warning that the water is still ice-cold.

Water in inlets, lakes and rivers hovers between 40 and 50 degrees this time of year. Swimmers and boaters may not realize just how cold the water is, and it only takes a matter of minutes before you're fully incapacitated. 

So far this year, two people have lost their lives drowned in the water. One person drowned in Lake Sammamish and the other one in Five Mile Lake.

"The cold water emersion, cold water shock is what we typically deal with and that’s what our victims succumb to," said Sgt. Rich Barton with the King County Sheriff’s Office. "It's an involuntary response. You gasp, you suck in air, and then you pretty much go under very, very quickly, the body kind of locks up. It tightens up, that you can’t function as normal." 

Barton says this typically happens in people in the prime of their life, between ages 16 to 30.  

"You can be a fit athlete, you can be a phenomenal athlete and it’s still going to get you," Barton said. 

Medical experts say survival starts on the dock with a simple safety step.

"The number one important safety tip: wear a life jacket. That is your survival chance and a chance for someone to get you out of that water before something bad happens," said Dr. Beth Ebel with UW Medicine. 

Preventable drownings in King County have continued to rise over the past five years, with 29 fatalities in 2021, including 15 deaths in open water.