Winter water temperatures bring additional safety concerns
KINGMAN – Cold weather and frigid water temperatures aren’t enough to keep watercraft enthusiasts from doing what they love, but the winter months bring additional dangers for which boaters and fishermen should be prepared.
According to the Arizona Game and Fish Department, the U.S. Coast Guard says hypothermia and cold water immersion, which can affect muscle movement, breathing and heart rate, are possible in water with a temperature of 70 degrees. Prolonged exposure can result in hypothermia, cardiac arrest and death.
The National Parks Service reports the water temperatures at Lake Mead and Lake Mohave can drop to about 45 degrees in the winter months. The Lake Havasu City Convention and Visitors Bureau says on its website that Lake Havasu has an average water temperature of 59 degrees in December and 50 degrees in January.
Paul De Nubilo of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, Kingman, said his organization, which is one of five USCG flotillas in the area, sees a steep drop-off in boaters this time of year. Those volunteer auxiliary units work to promote recreational boating safety, education, assist with search and rescue, and serve Lake Mead, Lake Mohave, Lake Havasu and the Lower Colorado River. There are auxiliaries in Kingman, Lake Havasu City, Bullhead City, Henderson and Las Vegas.
“We don’t see the visitors, people from California, people from inland, going out during the wintertime,” De Nubilo said.
However, fishermen and locals can still be seen taking advantage of the water during the winter. For those folks, De Nubilo said the best precautions they can take to stay safe are to dress appropriately, have equipment inspected and ready to go, watch gear and stay hydrated.
“One of the biggest things during the wintertime, since there aren’t as many people on the water, is you’re less likely to get assistance if you run across a problem,” De Nubilo said.
Before heading out on the water, people should give their schedules to those who are staying at home. That way, should someone not return when expected, law enforcement and the coast guard can be informed.
Another consideration to take into account before heading to one’s favorite water-oriented activity is the temperature of the air and the temperature of the water. Significant differences in the two can be quite a shock if a plunge is taken.
“Cold water immersion can be deadly so every second you’re in the water is a race against the clock,” said Josh Hoffman, boating safety education coordinator for the AZGFD in a press release. “That is why it’s critical to make sure you are prepared for the worst, before heading out on the water by making sure you’re properly dressed and always wearing a life jacket. It’s really the simplest thing you can do to save your own life and return home safely.”
De Nubilo said children 12 and under are required to wear life jackets at all times. Those older than 12 need to have lifejackets onboard, and while they aren’t required to wear them, De Nubil recommends they do.
The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary is always looking for volunteers of age 17 and older. It is currently seeking a second communications operator, preferably someone with a background or interest in communications, to assist the communications officer. Those seeking more information can contact De Nubilo at 928-716-3840.