MAYTOWN — A hot and dry stretch of early fall weather is leading to declining water levels on the Susquehanna River.
The lower levels have come gradually, since the start of August, but the lack of September rainfall has created the most noticeable differences.
“Currently, with as hot as it has been, and the lack of rainfall, we have quite a bit of rocks exposed,” said Dan Houseal, an assistant fire chief with the Maytown-East Donegal Fire Company in Lancaster County. “It can make our job a little more difficult.”
According to statistics from the US Geological Survey, the Susquehanna River at Harrisburg has dropped more than a foot since Aug. 1, while measurements taken at Marietta show a 4-foot decline over the same time period.
According to Houseal, the concern is not that river levels are any lower than they should be this time of year, but that recreational boaters enjoying summer-like temperatures will not recognize the difference in conditions.
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“With the rocks being close to the surface due to low water levels, that makes the river a hundred times more dangerous,” he said. “If you are pushed into one of the rocks, it could be life threatening. The rocks aren’t going to move. If you hit them with a boat, it is going to stop you dead, if not capsize your boat.”
Houseal says while sinking water levels creates its own set of hazards, the river can be dangerous any time of year. In June, he was among the river rescuers who responded to stranded tubers who encountered unsafe high water levels during a floating regatta. Fifty-five tubers had to be pulled to safety.
Houseal recommends all boaters wear life vests while enjoying the river, calling it the best chance you have to survive a swift water emergency.