Eye turns to water safety ahead of heat, coastal swells slated for holiday weekend

There are two swells set to impact North Bay beaches where temperatures will be closer to the 70s, this weekend.|

It’s going to be hot in Sonoma County this weekend, but area officials encouraged those seeking relief at local beaches to remain vigilant.

Temperatures will steadily increase Friday into Saturday, with highs expected to reach the low-80s and into the 90s across the North Bay’s valleys, said Brian Garcia, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s office in Monterey.

And, as temperatures rise, two swells — a weaker one from the northwest and a stronger one from the southwest — will roll up to beaches along Sonoma County’s coast.

On Friday, the stronger swell will peak with a period of about 16 seconds between wave crests and heights of about 6 to 8 feet or 7 to 10 feet. By Saturday, the periods will lower by one second.

By about 3 to 4 p.m. Saturday, Santa Rosa will peak at a high of around 89 to 92 degrees, and Cloverdale, likely to record the highest daily temperature in Sonoma County, could reach 96 degrees.

Daily lows will also be above normal, predicted for the 50s and 60s on Saturday and Monday mornings.

Garcia emphasized that residents need to take precautions, such as finding shade and having cool water on hand to avoid heat exhaustion. It’s especially important to avoid leaving any person or animal in a car.

“Remember that when it warms up, it is even hotter in the car,” he said. “We need to make sure that we practices good safety measures so that we don’t end up with pediatric car fatalities.”

In contrast, the coastal temperature highs will range from the upper-50s to mid-60s Friday and mid-60s to low-70s Saturday, peaking between noon and 2 p.m.

“The coast is going to be a bit different of course because you’re right on the water and water temperatures are still fairly cool,” Garcia said. “So that’s going to keep the coast a little bit more moderated.”

While heat risks will be lower on the coast, the two swells could increase chances for rip currents and quickly rising waters.

There will be times when the swells amplify each other and when they cancel each other out, Garcia said, which is why it is important to observe the water for about 15 to 30 minutes before jumping in.

“It’s really important to take the time to watch the ocean and make decisions based on what you’re observing over a period of time and not just a split-second observation,” he said.

Beachgoers should consider wearing wet suits if going into the chilly waters, wearing a life jacket or just enjoying from a distance.

“When in and around water, it’s crucial to take the necessary precautions, such as keeping a close eye on children, wearing a life jacket while swimming, boating or floating, and never turn your back on the ocean,” Sonoma County Regional Parks Director Bert Whitaker said in a Thursday press release.

Temperatures in most locations of the Russian River register 60 degrees as ocean water at various area beaches are around the low-50s, which can cause temperature shock and affect breathing.

The Russian River also has a 408% higher flow rate than this time last year.

As water recreation season is nearly here, every second grader in Santa Rosa’s Roseland School District is learning how to be safe in the water thanks to a free program of the Sonoma County Family YMCA.

The Safety Around Water program provides students with baseline water safety knowledge to build confidence, lower drowning risks and teach them how to help in the case of an emergency.

It is the fourth time the YMCA has partnered with the district for the water safety classes.

“It’s about making sure that the kids are safe in and around water. Making sure they are able to float on their back, can safely get themselves to the side if they fall into a body of water, teaching them that a noodle can save a life ... so they can help their friend if their friend is in distress,“ said Michelle Head, chief operations officer for the Sonoma County Family YMCA in Santa Rosa.

Classes began April 24 and end May 19.

The lessons, which students are bused to during the school day, are held twice a week for 40 minutes each, and taught by YMCA swim instructors and volunteers. Students are taught various skills, including how to jump in the water, float on their back and climb out of a pool safely.

Roseland district staff call the program, held for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, “an amazing opportunity” for students to gain safety skills.

“Our teachers have been enthusiastic and our students are enjoying it very much,” said Jenn Del Rosario, community relations coordinator with Roseland Public Schools.

Most of the students, about 75% of the those taking lessons, also received a free bathing suit as part of the program, Del Rosario said.

“So many times parents don’t put their kids in swim lessons because of the affordability,” Head added. “And we are offering this program to Roseland kids at no cost.”

The Sonoma County Family YMCA offers swim lessons year-round.

You can reach Staff Writer Madison Smalstig at madison.smalstig@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @madi.smals.

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