School is out and the forecast is finally calling for a week of long-delayed highs in the 80s.
Some clouds are forecast, but not enough to deter those who have grown impatient with the unseasonably cool June and can't wait another minute to get into the water.
Losing your patience is fine. But don't lose your healthy respect for the hazards that come with recreation on Mid-Columbia waterways.
We've already seen our first drownings of the year, all under different circumstances and all accidents that could have been prevented in a perfect world: a 5-year-old who fell into a recently filled irrigation canal, a man on an overcrowded boat at Scootney Springs who wasn't wearing a life jacket and, most recently, a teenager who jumped into the Columbia's frigid waters, not realizing the risk of hypothermia. One jump was all it took for a tragedy to happen.
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Cold water temperatures and fast-moving currents are a deadly combination for even the strongest of swimmers. Our rivers haven't seen enough hot days to help raise the water temperature. And even in the warmest years, the water never gets to be what most folks would consider comfortable.
There might be pockets of warm water in shallow bays and inlets, but that's as good as it gets. And the current is always there, especially on the mighty Columbia.
Drowning is one of the top causes of death for school-age children and a top cause for preschool-age children.
But some basic safety practices can minimize the risks.
* The first rule is to know how to swim. It's never too early -- or too late -- to learn.
* Never swim alone.
* Never let children swim unsupervised. Never let them near the water unsupervised.
* Do not leave toys in or around pools when not in use. Make sure to have fences, childproof gates and weight-bearing pool covers.
* Teach children about the dangers of irrigation canals and waterways.
* If you're going out on the rivers, wear a lifejacket. It sounds simple, but it saves lives.
* Know your abilities, and err on the side of caution.
* Don't mix alcohol and swimming. Ditto for operating personal watercraft and boats.
Washington's Boater Safety Education Bill requires all boat operators under 26 to pass a state test and obtain a Boater Education Card. Boaters of other ages will be phased into the program, and by 2016, everyone born after Jan. 1, 1955, will need the card to legally operate a boat. Anyone older is exempt.
Having another set of government regulations may seem irksome, but it won't hurt to brush up on the rules of the water and how to keep those in your boat safe. Learn more about available courses and the regulations at www.parks.wa.gov/boating/boatered.
One of the benefits of living in the Tri-Cities is the proximity to water, be it a backyard pool or a river or a mountain lake.
We know accidents happen. That's an unfortunate fact of life. But we can all take steps to try to prevent further tragedies around the water this summer.