Coast Guard warns boaters of extreme cold water even with warmer air temperatures

BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Coast Guard is warning boaters looking to get out on Lake Ontario and eastern Lake Erie this weekend that the water temperatures in Lake Erie and Lake Ontario are still dangerously cold.

The National Weather Service reports that the water temperatures in Lake Erie and Lake Ontario are just above freezing, 32 F and 38 F respectively.

The cold water has already claimed the lives of several boaters on Lake Erie this season.

In the best of scenarios, a male of average height and weight in freezing or near-freezing water would lose function after an hour if not dressed properly.

“The conditions on the water can be very deceptive with warm air temperature,” said Lt. Cdr. Thomas Pequignot, chief, Incident Management Division at Coast Guard Sector Buffalo. “Forecasted temperatures in the mid 60s this weekend may give the mariner a false perception that it is safe to venture out on the water. Remember to always dress for the water temperature and not the air temperature.”

Here are a few tips from the Coast Guard to help keep you safe now and in the upcoming boating season:

  • Never go out on the water or ice alone. Proper precautions should always be taken before heading out on the water or the ice
  • Before making your first trip out onto the water this spring, be sure to ensure seaworthiness of your vessel and inspect it thoroughly
  • Ensure the boat drain plugs are properly installed
  • Inspect the hull for wear and tear that may have occurred over the long winter season
  • Check the readiness of all your survival and safety equipment
  • Free boat inspections can be arranged and scheduled with the Coast Guard Auxiliary

Additionally, the combination of warmer temperatures and shifting winds has caused extremely hazardous ice conditions throughout Lake Erie, Lake Ontario and inland. The Coast Guard cautions against ice fishing and transiting on the ice due to the threat of weak ice.

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