Cold water is dangerous

(Released April 24, 2014)

As lakes and rivers continue to open up across southern Minnesota, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is reminding anxious boaters and paddlers to consider the potential danger of cold water before they head out.

Over 30 percent of boating fatalities in Minnesota happen in cold water —water below 70 degrees— with a victim not wearing a life jacket.

Last week, a paddler died after his canoe capsized in Blue Earth County. The victim is the first boating death of 2014.

With the long winter behind the state and daytime temperatures rising, many boaters and paddlers may be coaxed to the water.

“Even though the air is getting warmer, it’s important to remember that water temperatures are still in the 40s or lower,” said Kara Owens, DNR boat and water safety specialist.

Falling into icy water can be deadly because many boaters do not think about the effects of cold water immersion, Owens said.

The shock of the cold water causes an involuntary gasp reflex. It takes less than a half cup of water in the lungs to drown. The shock of sudden entry into the water can also cause cardiac arrest, even for people in good health.

The DNR recommends these safety tips for boaters, canoeists and kayakers:
• Wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved life jacket.
• Wear a wetsuit or drysuit when paddling in water colder than 70 degrees.
• Don’t boat or paddle alone. Boating safety increases with numbers.
• If a boat or canoe tips, try to reboard or stay with it until rescuers arrive. Most watercraft will continue to float, even after capsizing and filling with water. Drowning often occurs when the victim tries to swim to shore rather than face the embarrassment of being rescued.

For more information on paddling safety, click here