As weather forecasts call for more rain and warm temperatures this week, county officials have extended their warning to stay out of creeks and rivers.
Lafayette Fire Department Special Operations Chief Randy Evans says moving waterways like the Wabash and Tippecanoe Rivers and Wildcat Creek have become dangerous as the speed of their currents has increased in recent days.
He says the creeks hold more water in a confined space, and that turns them into rapids.
“The water actually just pushes you, and holds you down, and you really can’t fight it to get out and that’s when you run into trouble,” he says. “It doesn’t take very long for you to succumb to that water – and next thing you know, we’re doing a recovery instead of a rescue.”
Recent rains and high temperatures led to a string of water rescues over the weekend.
One rescue was performed last Friday, and another two incidents occurred within three hours of each other on Wildcat Creek Saturday.
The fire department’s water rescue team was on the creek for training and mock rescues Saturday morning, when Evans says they passed a large group of inner-tubers floating down the river. He says the team advised them to leave the water, as none were wearing personal flotation devices.
Later that afternoon, the water rescue team received a call that seven of those floaters had been thrown into the water and become stranded on a log jam.
Just a few hours later – a canoe was overturned on Wildcat Creek, stranding an adult and three children on a sand bank.
Tippecanoe County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Robert Hainje, whose department assisted with the second rescue, says no one was seriously injured.
Evans says in that case, the rescued had life vests with them, but were not wearing them.
“People don’t understand the power of water. So, they want to go out and have a good time because it’s moving really fast. They’re going to have a good time floating, but what they don’t realize is once they get in that water and they get off that floatation device, they’re in trouble,” he says. “And that’s pretty much what happens.”
Evans estimates about eight of every ten water rescue calls his team receives come from Wildcat Creek.
The warning to stay out of moving water is in place the rest of this week.