Girl plucked from log in fast-flowing Puntledge River

A dramatic rescue Monday evening on the Puntledge River underscores BC Hydro's warning to avoid the river this week.
The Comox Valley RCMP, Courtenay Fire Department and the Comox Valley Search and Rescue answered a distress call at about 7:30 p.m.

A dramatic rescue Monday evening on the Puntledge River underscores BC Hydro’s warning to avoid the river this week.The Comox Valley RCMP, Courtenay Fire Department and the Comox Valley Search and Rescue answered a distress call at about 7:30 p.m.A man and two teen females were tubing on the Puntledge when overhanging branches severely cut the man’s leg and he lost his tube. One of the girls gave up her flotation device in an effort to get the male to medical services and the other girl made it safely ashore. After hours of holding onto a log, the other girl was rescued with the assistance of 442 Squadron.The significant recent rain along with the ongoing snowmelt has exceeded BC Hydro’s water inflow forecasts, says Hydro representative Stephen Watson.The Comox Lake Reservoir has risen approximately 30 centimetres the past two days, he said Sunday afternoon, raising the possibility of water free-spilling over the Comox Dam. Through this Sunday, BC Hydro advises people to avoid the Puntledge.With the approach of August, BC Hydro is normally in full water conservation mode with the Puntledge River base flow around 16 cubic metres per second (m/3) or lower.This year, river flows from Friday to Saturday have been around 32 m3/s in consideration of river recreation, increasing to about 50 m3/s from Monday to Tuesday, and to 110 m3/s on Monday nights to allow BC Hydro to control water levels given the very high snowpack.This week, BC Hydro must change that schedule by releasing up to 110 m3/s of water from the dam during the day and night to control reservoir levels. BC Hydro has not released such a high volume of water so late in the summer in 48 years of recorded data.The water releases downstream may be good for whitewater kayaking. The only days this week where non-kayaking river recreation may be possible, such as tubing, is Wednesday and Thursday when BC Hydro must back off its water releases below 32 m3/s for summer chinook migration. Late last week, snowpack measurements were showing snow to water equivalent of 1,050 mm versus the normal 150 mm level for the time of year. That’s about 700 per cent of normal. We are about to set a record for the amount of snow so late in the summer.After this week, BC Hydro anticipates going back to the schedule announced on July 7 that advises the public to be cautious if you decide to enter the Puntledge River from Monday to Thursday in the upper river, and from Monday to Tuesday below Powerhouse Road, until mid-August.BC Hydro’s public safety signage along the river will be updated through the week.

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