The Coast Guard is asking boaters to take extra precautions if they launch their boats with dangerously cold water teamperatures.
The National Weather Service reports that water temperatures in Lakes Superior, Michigan, Huron and the connecting waterways are just above freezing, with maximum temperatures of 35-39 degrees.
"With these temperatures, if not dressed for the environment, an average sized person will be hypothermic within one hour," said Lt. Cmdr. Richard Sansone, search-and-rescue mission coordinator at Coast Guard Sector Sault Ste. Marie. "If an accident occurs, boaters are reminded to stay with the vessel and try to remain above or out of the water at all costs. Do not attempt to swim for shore, even if land is in sight."
In only about 10 to 15 minutes, boaters exposed to cold water may have deteriorated strength and may not be able to pull themselves back into their vessel. It is vitally important when boating in waters at these temperatures to avoid boating alone and remember to dress for the water temperature, not for the air temperature. Also, be mindful that children and smaller adults will succumb more rapidly to exposure to cold water.
In addition, ice remains in some shore areas along the banks. Do not risk safety by attempting to walk on the ice as warmer air and rain have diminished thickness and strength. Earlier this spring, an afternoon walk in Sault Ste. Marie went horribly wrong when weak ice conditions in the St. Marys River jeopardized the life of someone walking on the ice and claimed the life of the person's pet.
"It is simply not worth the risk to venture onto any ice during this time of year," said Sansone. "When walking pets along the lakes and rivers, please remember to keep them safe by utilizing a leash. Migratory birds that have returned to the area are tempting targets for dogs that are inclined to charge after them in spite of the failing ice. Ultimately, if not kept secure, beloved pets may be running straight into a life-threatening situation."