Sudden storms are as common during late winter as hopeful thoughts of warm weather and spring.
For anyone who spends time outdoors, seasonal transitions such as unexpected temperature drops should be treated with caution, especially during cold water season.
In Minnesota, for example, it’s a good time to talk about the dangers of thin ice.
“Ice, especially snow-covered ice, is extremely deceptive. You can’t see dangerous cracks or the thickness of the ice under the snow,” according to Hannah Mishler, a conservation officer with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
“Teach your children that ice is never 100 percent safe,” Mishler cautions. “If your child is near the ice, you should be near your child.”
If you’re outdoors, always take precautions around any body of water.
Cold water season is not unique to northern states like Minnesota. Several times each winter, the polar jet stream dislodges arctic air from Canada, Alaska, the North Pole or even Siberia and sends it plunging deep into the South.
Sudden cold stuns sea turtles, too
That’s what happened in Texas recently where nearly 3,500 cold-stunned sea turtles needed to be rescued. So far, rescuing that many turtles set a state record.
Very cold weather—and cold water—has a paralyzing effect on the sea turtles, causing them to wash up on shore or float helplessly, becoming easy prey. A sudden temperature drop of 10 degrees can cause sea turtles to go into a hypothermic state, according to biologists.
A team of Texas game wardens, United States Fish and Wildlife Service and National Park Service biologists, and a network of volunteers spent several days pulling cold-stunned sea turtles from the icy water, picking them up off the beach and transporting them to shelters.
Once the weather and turtles warmed up, volunteers released the turtles back into the Gulf.
Best option if you’re not a turtle? Be prepared for sudden temperature drops.
If you live near water, being prepared is always the best option to deal with changing conditions.
Lisa Dugan, a Minnesota DNR recreation safety outreach coordinator, advises in addition to checking local conditions, to be prepared with an ice safety kit. And, if your outdoor activities will take you near cold water or ice, own and use a life jacket.
“A life jacket is the one piece of equipment that increases your odds of not drowning from cold water shock, hypothermia or exhaustion,” she said.
While you’re waiting for spring to arrive, dress for the changing weather, and continue to enjoy outdoor activities.
Dress with layers so you can adjust to temperature changes as you warm up and cool down. If you’re hiking, take a lightweight backpack or waist pack with some high-energy snacks. Always take water with you; the danger of hypothermia increases significantly when you are dehydrated, and don’t forget your sunscreen.
For safety information about how to deal with truly cold and icy water, visit here.
– Resources: Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Texas Parks and Wildlife