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3 Dead, 24 Rescued From California River During Memorial Day Weekend

The fast-flowing Kern River has been fueled by record snowmelt runoff from the Sierra Nevada Mountains

A record winter of mountain snowmelt into California's rivers has made for treacherous conditions and several reports of people falling victim this Memorial Day weekend to the fast-flowing water.

Three people died this past weekend along the Kern River and 24 others had to be rescued. At surrounding rivers, five more people had to be saved.

The increased runoff this year has brought dramatic rapids and swift flows back to the Kern River after five years of severe drought. The mountain snowpack melts in the spring and summer, then flows into California's system or water reservoirs and aqueducts. 

Water from the southern Sierra Nevada Mountains, California's large natural water reservoir, flows into the Kern River northeast of Bakersfield, about 100 miles north of Los Angeles.  The 400-mile long Sierra Nevada range's snowmelt provides one-third of the water used by residents in the nation's most populous state. 

The springtime snowpack was nearly double its normal levels during measurements in early May. Water was being released from reservoirs downstream in some locations to prepare for heavy runoff. 

Officials said they fear river conditions could become more dangerous as chilly snow melt continues to fuel the river water.

All three of the deaths this past weekend had been rafting incidents. Officials say 10 people have now died in Kern and Tulare county rivers this year.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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