People have a very troubling tendency to severely underestimate the power of water.
Recently, we who live here in the Lake Diefenbaker region have seen the sheer physicality of water as the province’s Water Security Agency opened up the Gardiner Dam spillway just after Canada Day due to rising water levels from rainfalls in Alberta. Articles have said it’s the first time the spillway had been released since 2013, so it’s a pretty monumental feat in and of itself.
So not only has Lake Diefenbaker itself risen substantially, but as a result of the spillway opening its mouth and letting loose with loud, foamy torrents of water, the South Saskatchewan River has also gone up exponentially. I gotta say, it’s a real treat coming into Outlook and noticing the increased ‘height’ on the river while crossing the traffic bridge.
But with this kind of news, of course it gets followed by some less-than-flattering headlines surrounding people who just don’t seem to get it when it comes to what rising waters are capable of.
It was reported on July 6 that five people in total had to be rescued in two separate instances from the fast-moving waters of the South Saskatchewan River up in Saskatoon. The cases mainly involved people who were using inflatable watercrafts and became trapped against concrete structures after being pushed down river by the strong currents.
Let’s remember that the WSA had just opened up the spillway four days earlier. Naturally, your first thought is to grab a tube and hit the river running, right?
Listen, I'm glad no one was seriously hurt, but at the same time, I’m calling people like these five individuals out. This is completely reckless and arrogant behavior on the part of some “city folk” who think they know better than government agencies whose entire job is monitoring whether large bodies of water are safe for human usage. Advisories went out immediately after the spillway was opened, telling people to be *extra* careful on the water or just avoid it altogether for the time being because of the rising river levels, and leave it to these dopes to not only decide to avoid the words of caution by water experts, but according to the news article, they didn't even wear life jackets.
Reckless, arrogant, dangerous, and just plain stupid when you break it down. I just have to shake my head sometimes. It’s as if people easily forget just how tragic of a summer this area had in 2017.
Five lives lost to the horrifically powerful waters of the river and the lake in a span of roughly six weeks. That’s almost one drowning a week.
Seventeen-year old Justin Warwaruk of Outlook was the first sad casualty of the river. Justin went missing on July 16 near the Fred Heal boat launch, roughly 12 km south of Saskatoon. Family, friends and the public frantically searched the waters and nearby areas for five days, with no sight of the Outlook High School student. It wasn’t until July 21 that Justin’s body was found two km downriver from the launch. Today, a memorial bench located at the high school serves as a reminder of such a sad loss of life.
On July 20, a rager of a storm that swept through the entire regional area saw the waves of Lake Diefenbaker reach as high as nearly two meters. For two Elbow-area men boating on the north side of the lake, the storm may have been what contributed to their sad passing after their boat capsized. A kayaker who saw the boat capsize and happened to be a paramedic pulled one of the men to shore and performed CPR, but he had already died. The body of the second man was found the following morning after the storm.
On Saturday, July 29, a man operating a boat in the lake ended up falling into the water in distress. A woman who was also onboard attempted to rescue him, but she was unsuccessful. It wasn’t until August 6 that the man’s body was located, and it was discovered in the area where he was last seen.
On Monday, September 4, two men were operating a boat in the lake near Danielson Provincial Park in Pumphouse Bay when it capsized. One man swam to shore and went for help, but the other – a 70-year old man from Saskatoon – sadly lost his life and was found deceased in the water.
Five lives gone thanks to the gripping, haunting strength of our local waters. There could’ve even been a sixth as my older brother nearly drowned after a jet-ski collision in July of that summer that threw him into the waters of Tufts Bay by the village of Elbow.
We need to be better at listening to what the experts tell us. I know there’s a built-in need to go against the grain of what we’re told because “I’m not like everybody else”, an emotional reaction we’re seeing ten-fold because of a viral pandemic that’s giving many of us cabin fever, but dammit people, aren’t we tired of reading bad news that should’ve never occurred in the first place?
No one wants another ‘Summer of Death’ like we had in 2017.
For this week, that’s been the Ruttle Report.