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What makes Umpqua River deadly? 'It was all about the cold water'

"Our messaging has always been limited to: be careful around cold water," Spencer Higginson from the National Weather Service said. "But how cold is too cold? We didn't have a way of measuring that." The Respect the Water Safety Committee decided that had to change - for the sake of the community. (SBG)

ROSEBURG, Ore. - As temperatures warm up, taking a dip in local lakes and rivers sounds like an inviting way to spend an afternoon.

It can also prove deadly.

"We lost two young men who were in excellent shape," said Gary Williams from the YMCA of Roseburg. "It wasn't due to logs or drinking, it was all about the cold water."

Now community partners in Roseburg are working to help inform the public about the potential dangers of a dip in the Umpqua River.

Swimming in water that's 60 degrees or colder can be life-threatening.

"Recognizing that hypothermia is a serious threat in cold water could save your life," Sheriff John Hanlin said.

But until recently, there was no way to measure river water temperatures in the City of Roseburg.

"Our messaging has always been limited to: be careful around cold water," Spencer Higginson from the National Weather Service said. "But how cold is too cold? We didn't have a way of measuring that."

The Respect the Water Safety Committee decided that had to change - for the sake of the community.

"We decided that it was absolutely vital that we have water temperatures," Higginson said. "Otherwise, how are people going to know?"

Officials will take the temperature of the Umpqua River every day using a new water temperature gauge installed by the U.S. Geological Survey.

"We're going to be able to help people make enformed devisions," Higginson said. "That's the goal here."


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