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'Needs to be taken seriously': Macon-Bibb leaders stresses safety when on the water following search for missing man in Amerson River Park

City leaders say they want folks to be as prepared as they can be on their rivers and lakes. They explain why the water isn't safe to swim in this time of year.

MACON, Ga. — Crews are still searching for the 22-year-old man who apparently drowned at Amerson River Park on Wednesday. 

Officials tell us they are closing the park Saturday and will continue their search when it's light out.

City leaders say they want folks to be as prepared as they can be on their rivers and lakes.

13WMAZ’s Jessica Cha explains why the water isn't safe this time of year, and what safety precautions the city has put in place over the years. 

Float Daze organizes big river clean ups, and gathers people to all float down the Ocmulgee River every summer. However, they say that folks should not be getting in the water this time of year. 

“It is moving, this is not a lake. This is something that needs to be taken seriously,” says president of Float Daze, Robert Jackson. 

Jackson says the Ocmulgee is a great place to float in, but looks can be deceiving. 

"Rapids and the currents around that area near the rocks are not safe. People do and come and congregate there and get in the water, and it does look appealing, but this is dangerous. This is where most of the drownings take place,” Jackson explains. 

He says they don't even think about getting in the water till May.

“Just because it's warm outside does not mean that the water temperature is even close to warm,” Jackson says. “All this water is flowing from up North; it's still chilly up there. When you get in water something like that, your muscles contract and seize up and takes your breath immediately.”

Jackson also says the water currents are too fast right now. He says it’s only safe to float when the water is clear and not murky. 

"There is a site that you can look up on Google. It'll tell USGS river levels in Macon, Georgia. We follow this religiously to see if it's even safe to float,” he says. 

Macon-Bibb Fire Chief, Shane Edwards, says they're constantly working to improve safety conditions and warn folks.

"We've got five foot drops, or three feet, or even 10 feet to where a person who may not be able to swim could go underwater,” he says. 

He says the city wants to make sure it’s easy and accessible for people to stay safe.

“We are providing life jackets. They are on the signs just like this where an individual can come up and use a flotation device while on scene.”

Edwards says there are also several signs warning folks of water conditions and even showing their location.

"One thing that we’ve done over the past few months is we’ve actually implemented signs along the river that when an individual has a problem or if something were to occur, they can look at the last sign they saw, or an upcoming sign and they can give us that number. That number tells emergency responders exactly where the emergency situation is,” he explains. 

Edwards says similar numbered plaques will be put onto the new walking trails by the river. So, if anyone sees anything wrong happening in the water, emergency crews will know where to go. 

He says they strongly encourage folks to have a personal flotation device handy even if you're not wearing it. 

The sheriff's department says the search for the 22-year-old will continue Saturday. 

If you're swimming and get stuck in a current, the National Weather Service has some tips.

Tip number one: stay calm.

 Trying to swim against it will only use up your energy. They recommend swimming along the shore line with the current-- not against it.

 When you escape the current's pull, swim at an angle away from the current and toward the shore. They advise you to always know the currents before you head out to the water-- and never swim alone.


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