Coast Guard warns Great Lakes water enthusiasts of risk of hypothermia

d9Cleveland – The Coast Guard is warning water enthusiasts that warmer temperatures predicted for this weekend could pose safety concerns as water temperatures continue to fall.

Air temperatures are predicted to be around 53 degrees while water temperatures will continue to hover around a frigid 40 degrees.

“Warm air temperatures can create a false sense of security for boaters,” said Mike Baron, recreational boating safety specialist for the Coast Guard 9th District. “Cool water drains body heat up to 25 times faster than cool air, which is why we encourage boaters to always dress for the water temperature and not the air temperature.”

Great Lakes weather is unpredictable and dangerous, especially during seasonal transitions.

Paddlers are at a higher risk of hypothermia, because they are more likely to get wet than a power boater.

In addition, persons who plan to recreate on waterways should heed safety precautions to ensure a safe outing. The Coast Guard offers these cold water and ice safety tips:

  • Always wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket, and dress for the lake temperature. A life jacket allows a person to float with a minimum of energy expended and allows the person to assume the Heat Escape Lessening Position (H.E.L.P.) – bringing the knees close to the chest and holding them in place by wrapping the arms around the shin portions of the legs.
  • Never go out on the water alone. Use the buddy system.
  • Always check and monitor the marine weather forecast before and during any trip out onto the lakes.
  • Carry a registered personal locator beacon in addition to a marine radio to alert the Coast Guard and local safety agencies of potential distress. Consider a waterproof hand-held model that can be worn.
  • Carry all required and recommended safety gear, such as visual distress signals and a sound-producing device. Carry your visual distress signal and whistle in the pocket of your life jacket so they’re close at hand in an emergency.
  • Always tell family or friends where you are going and when you expect to be back – and stick to the plan or notify them when plans have changed.

Survival time is greatly diminished for someone immersed in water below 70 degrees. Cold water drains a body’s heat up to 25 times faster than cold air. In addition to a life jacket, the Coast Guard recommends mariners wear a drysuit in a cold water environment in order to increase the chances of surviving a fall into the water.

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