A wet spring storm will roll through the region this weekend, bringing soggy conditions pretty much everywhere. A splitting trough of low pressure will move onshore, creating a cut-off low pressure center that will hang around the area through the weekend. High temperatures will drop to the low 60s in Reno with rain almost a certainty once you get halfway through the day. Snow levels will likely be high enough to spare most of the major mountain passes, but the mountain peaks and the high mountain passes could see several inches of snowfall by the end of the weekend.
Showers will begin to ease and move to the east on Sunday, and by Monday, partly cloudy to mostly sunny skies will return to the region with temperatures rebounding back into the 70s through next week.
It may seem counter-intuitive, but as the weather warms up, the dangers of hypothermia actually go up as well. In fact, this might be the most dangerous time of year to get on one of the area rivers… and not just because they are running high. Most of the water in the rivers is coming straight out of the snow instead of sitting in a reservoir. Water sucks the heat out of your body 25 times faster than air, and hypothermia can strike within minutes of immersion in water this cold.
In water that is less than 40 degrees (a likely range for rivers melting from snow) unconsciousness can occur in as little as 15 minutes. But what makes hypothermia even more insidious is often you aren’t even aware you are suffering from it until it’s too late. Confusion, abnormal behavior, and even “drunkenness” can prevent you from getting the help you need. Unless you are fully prepared and experienced in cold water running, you might want to wait until the river drops and the water warms.
But it isn’t only the rivers that are a concern. The area lakes are about as cold now as they ever get, and boating accidents can happen anytime, especially with equipment that might be a little rusty from lack of use.
Before you find yourself in the unenviable position of total immersion a mile or so from shore, please reconsider leaving that life jacket at home. Even if you are a strong swimmer, in cold water it is almost impossible to swim much more than a half-mile, and exhaustion sets in much quicker. So wear that personal floatation device. But even if you wear a life jacket, striking off for the shore that is more than a half-mile away could be a fatal mistake. I have always thought that you would stay warmer if you tried to swim vigorously, but experts disagree. According to hypothermia.org, swimming actually increases heat loss by 35-50%, and you’d likely be unconscious before you reached dry land.