By Tessa Roy
Essex Rescue volunteer
As Vermonters, we’re all used to Mother Nature getting our hopes up with warm weather as spring approaches only to drop more snow on us at the last second. This year the seasonal transition seems to have taken place quite suddenly, with winter tossing in one last snow storm on April 29 before handing over the reins as spring rolled in with temperatures in the low 80s on May 2. I hope I’m not jinxing anything, but it seems like spring may be here to stay.
The sunshine and warmer temperatures we’re experiencing are sure to draw people outside after a long, cold winter, and many are eager to get back into fun outdoor activities. However, if any of the outdoor activities you’re about to resume involve the water, I would urge you to take a moment to check the water temperature before grabbing your swimsuit, kayak or canoe. Just because the grass is turning green and the air has warmed up doesn’t mean the water is warm enough to enjoy. Any water under 70 degrees Fahrenheit can start to negatively affect your breathing and muscles, and right now our rivers and lakes are closer to the high 30s or low 40s. Those are dangerously low temperatures for anyone not wearing proper cold-water gear.
Life vests will keep you afloat if your kayak or canoe capsizes, but at these cold-water temperatures your body will be sapped of energy and getting back to shore will be immensely difficult. In water temperatures below 32 degrees Fahrenheit people can become exhausted or unconscious in less than 15 minutes. In the temperatures we’re seeing now, that high 30s to low 40s range, you would have about a 30-minute window before you became completely exhausted or unconscious, and hypothermia would set in rapidly at that point. This becomes dangerous not only for you, but also for the first responders performing a water rescue. So please, before you venture back into the rivers, ponds and lakes, make sure that you are dressed appropriately for the water temperatures. It’s also highly recommended to use a life vest when boating, and to make sure that you are not out on/in the water alone.
As always if you’re interested in volunteering with Essex Rescue please contact Joe Congdon at 878-4859 ext 7. On May 26 we will also be holding our annual open house from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Bring the family and stop by to enjoy some food, fun activities and get to know your local first responders! We’re located at 1 Educational Drive, right in front of the Essex High School. We look forward to seeing you!