Watch out for currents if you’re spending Memorial Day on the water, officials warn

ATLANTA — The Memorial Day weekend kicks off the unofficial start to summer and the start of swimming and boating season.

Many will pack area lakes and rivers, including the Chattahoochee in North Fulton County.

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But the Sandy Springs Police Department wants to get the word out about some of the dangers on the water. Their water rescue team, in partnership with the fire department, runs two boats mostly for emergency response.

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The currents and conditions can change very quickly on the Chattahoochee, depending on recent rainfall and control of the water levels from controlled releases at dams.

“Water picks up quickly and without notice,” warns Sandy Springs Police Sgt. Matt McGinnis. “You can’t out-paddle the movement and the force of the water being pulled through the dam.”

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The department used their drone and helped in the recent rescue of a stranded kayaker on the river near the dam at Morgan Falls Park. Even away from the dam, the current in the center of the river’s channel can be swift.

“When the water is moving at its top speed, it is very difficult for even trained swimmers to be able to swim across the river,” McGinnis said.

That current can lead to tragedy. In the week after Memorial Day 2021, a group of teens jumped from cliffs along the bank into the river and attempted to swim across.

A 17-year-old young man got caught up in the current and didn’t make it. Rescue teams found his body in the water the next day.

“The biggest thing we can stress is be smart and be safe,” McGinnis said.