Press Release from N.H. Department of Safety
March 25, 2010

David T. Barrett, Director


Marine Patrol Bureau


Mark K. Gallagher, Captain


Tramway & A.R Safety Bureau


Marine Patrol Urges Caution Due to Cold Water Temperatures

"The water temperature in Lake Winnipesaukee is only about 39 degrees." -- Marine Patrol Sergeant Crystal McLain

The New Hampshire Marine Patrol is urging all citizens, visitors and patrons of the Granite State to use caution when on or near the water in the coming weeks.  New Hampshire has experienced warmer weather than usual this year accelerating ice melt on area waterways and increasing run off.  As many are aware, the state has not been immune to regional flooding causing roads and culverts to washout and rivers to spill their banks into residential areas.

As if high water wasn’t treacherous enough, immersion in cold water can quickly render even a good swimmer helpless within minutes.  Hypothermia is an abnormally low body temperature, often caused by prolonged exposure to cold.  The Marine Patrol Bureau is campaigning to stress awareness that even short amounts of time when exposed to the rigors of frigid water can exacerbate hypothermic effects.  With the current water temperatures across New Hampshire it is estimated a person will reach the point of exhaustion or become unconscious within fifteen to thirty minutes and total expected time of survival between thirty and ninety minutes.

All of the following are potential symptoms of hypothermia: shivering, a lack of fine or gross motor skills, slurred speech, stumbling, confusion, poor decision making, drowsiness or low energy, apathy, loss of consciousness, weak pulse and/or shallow breathing. 

An important factor to remember is that someone suffering from the effects of hypothermia may not be aware this is taking place.  Unfortunately someone that is experiencing this while in the water is often at a greater risk of injury or drowning.

Marine Patrol Sergeant Crystal McLain says, “The water temperature in Lake Winnipesaukee is only about 39 degrees with portions of the big lake still covered with ice.  I would caution anyone venturing out onto the State’s largest lake to use caution as ice formations are subject to shifting from wind and current and may cause a navigational hazard.”

Regardless of whether you are planning on an outing on a large body of water, an exciting white water excursion down a swollen river or scouting a flooded residential area, the Marine Patrol recommends many of the same safety precautions including: file a float plan, don’t go into areas that you are not familiar with, watch for areas of fast current or where depths can fluctuate quickly, have at least one other person with you and most importantly WEAR A LIFE JACKET. 

“Life Jackets are available in an assortment of styles and price ranges to meet all budgets and tastes” says Sergeant Joshua Dirth of the Marine Patrol.  “It is important to remember that by law life jackets must be an appropriate size for the wearer, Coast Guard approved and readily accessible, however simply put, they don’t work if you don’t wear them.”



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