Local News

New York lakes – cold water caution

Discretion is the better part of valor – perhaps, when it comes to frigid water.
Shakespeare’s, Henry IV –

Conesus Lake, one of NY’s eleven Finger Lakes, is cold this time of year. On Thursday, 18 April 2013, first responders from the area towns of Geneseo, Livonia, and Lakeville arrived to a scene regarding an overturned boat which belonged to the SUNY Geneseo Crew Team. The team was practicing when their rowing shell began to fill with water. When it filled with water, their coach Jason Rich, told the rowers to intentionally flip the boat upside down so they could sit on the hull and it would float on the sealed off bow and stern chambers. “The weather was not projected to pick up for another 3 hours so it got bad early. We would have never gone out in conditions like this. Practice had already been called off due to the wind shift  and we were rowing it back into the dock at a slow and safe pressure to minimize swamping. Once the waves reached a certain height the boat swamping was inevitable.”, stated Coach Rich. The water temperature was not recorded, but records from the past show that the lake temperatures may be in the mid to upper 40s this time of year.

The students were all pronounced in good health at the scene, but it is clear that some of them were out on the water for up to 15 minutes according to their coach. The crash-boat for the crew could only handle three crew members at one time as the coach ferried the members to shore. “I made sure to stay calm, and as long as I did, transporting the rowers to shore was nothing more than protocol.”, Coach Rich stated. Multiple 911 calls from cottage owners who witnessed the swamping alerted rescuers quickly. “It was clear that a potential tragedy was avoided by good preparation by the SUNY Crew Team and a quick response of our first responders serving the Conesus Lake Community,” said Undersheriff Szczesniak.
Credit: photo and article from Genesee Sun

Generally, a person can survive in 41-degree F (5-degree C) water for 10, 15 or 20 minutes before the muscles get weak, you lose coordination and strength, which happens because the blood moves away from the extremities and toward the center, or core, of the body. It has been noted that when you first go into extremely cold water there is this weird response called a cold shock response. People start to hyperventilate immediately. For one to three minutes you breathe very fast and deep, uncontrollably. Once that response goes away, you’re fine…for awhile.
Credit: Scientific American

The chart gives a wide band of hypothermia stats: