The department strongly urged everyone to stay off the river until it recedes to normal conditions.
“It’s just unrelenting, the water is coming at you,” said Kent Fire Chief John Tosko. “It’s overflowing the riverbanks so people get knocked right into the trees very easily.”
On Sunday between the hours of noon to 7:30 p.m., they responded to four calls for water rescues including overturned kayaks and also canoers who were separated from their canoe. Rescue swimmers were put into the water to rescue the canoers. There were no injuries.
At the water’s highest point, the chief said they got a reading of 1,600 cubic feet per second. The chief said the rushing water either “shoots” people through downtown and strands them on a small island or becomes a crushing force along the banks.
“One of the most dangerous things when you get caught between a tree and your canoe is all that pressure is pushing you against the tree and you have nowhere to go,” Tosko said.
The last time levels were this bad was a couple of years ago when they had 36 rescues in under two weeks.
The department is urging everyone to wear a life jacket and to get training on using kayaks and canoes before getting in the water.
“We often find peoples’ life vests are down stream a quarter mile away by the time we get to them not doing them any good,” Tosko said. “We always recommend wearing a lifejacket especially in conditions like we have right now.”