With several drownings over the past year, officials are warning valley residents about the dangers of canals. The city of McAllen is heading up a special awareness campaign called Stay Out and Stay Alive. As the temperatures rise, so does the number of people who use Valley canals to go fishing or to simply cool off. "They bring water, which brings life to the valley, but those same can take lives so we're just trying to bring some awareness to the public," warned McAllen Fire Captain Michael Hernandez. Cpt. Hernandez told us canal drownings are preventable. He worries that people may just not realize truly how dangerous these irrigation canals are. "It TMs deceiving what you see on top is not necessarily what TMs going on fifteen feet below water. It could be moving very quickly," explained Cpt. Hernandez. "Even on the other side of the dam where the water appears to be calm there is a undercurrent. It is flowing all the time. If a child goes under the water and gets caught in the branches and debris down there, they will have no chance to survive," said Scott Davis, who lives next to a canal. Last March, a young boy died after falling into this canal off Mile 5 in North McAllen. Scott Davis said he remembers it well, "We were out here hoping that they'd find the little boy, but after the first day, you knew it was a recovery operation and that was the saddest part." This year, the fire department wants to warn the public before the hot summer months roll around, to stay away from irrigation canals, which can get up to 15 feet deep. Flood gates and outlet pipes can create suction making it difficult even for a strong swimmer to survive. Debris can also pose as an additional snag hazard. Davis thinks it TMs a good idea. He doesn't want to see the canals take another life.
"I think its needed even if the people come here and visit for fishing in the afternoon they need to keep their children close im really glad the fire department is making an effort to make more people aware of how dangerous it is." Keep in mind, the area and land by the canal system is not open to the public. In fact, it TMs actually private property owned by the individual irrigation districts.You can watch the city of McAllen's Public Safety Announcement here.