On warm days, it is easy to overlook the fact that water temperature may be much lower than the air temperature. Furthermore, some rivers and streams are fed by cold runoff from the melting of snow upstream.
Immersion in cold water can rapidly become life threatening. Should your craft capsize…or you fall in a swift river…hypothermia in water with temperatures in the upper 30s and 40s can occur in just a matter of minutes. In fact…the human body cannot survive in water temperatures in the 50s and 60s for very long as water conducts body heat away 26 times faster than air of the same temperature. The cold water rapidly causes extremities to become numb…weakening the ability of muscles to work effectively.
The National Weather Service urges the following safety measures to protect yourself and maximize your enjoyment of our nation’s waterways:
Consider postponing small craft boating activities until water temperatures become warmer in late spring and summer. Keep in mind that even unseasonably warm air temperatures on mild spring and fall afternoons can drop rapidly later in the day.
When you do boat, canoe, or kayak; wear appropriate protective gear and clothing in the event of exposure, accident or capsize. Remember, no matter the season, when you are on the water always wear a life jacket.
Always file a float plan, letting a close family member or friend know your plans, your boats communication capability, and the physical details of your craft, all of which will assist rescue personnel in the event you get into trouble.