Watch out for hypothermia, say officials

Published: May. 31, 2023 at 6:00 PM EDT
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HENDERSON, New York (WWNY) - Hot weather means folks are doing what they can to cool off. But, taking a dip in lakes and rivers can be risky this time of year.

It was a hot day to close out May and people tried to beat that heat at Wescott Beach.

“Well, it was my day off. It’s gorgeous out. Figured I could take my kids out to the beach with my mom and sister. We all could play,” said Jessica Beautel.

Although the air might be warm, the water in Lake Ontario is still cold.

“I went up to my knees. That’s about it. It’s a little chilly,” said Beautel.

Right now, water temperatures in the area range anywhere from 45 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit

“When I first got in, it was cold but when I went underwater, it felt warmer,” said Jaelah Bohn.

Rich Little with the Watertown Fire Department says it’s still safe to swim, but temperatures this low do mean swimmers run an elevated risk for hypothermia.

“Water can cool your body 25 times faster than the air does. When that happens, your body isn’t able to regulate its temperature as well,” he said.

When water temperatures are in the 40s and 50s, hypothermia can set in after 5 to 30 minutes. Kids are the most susceptible. Little’s suggestion is don’t take your eyes off them.

“They’re not gonna tell you, ‘Dad, I’m getting cold. Mom, I’m getting cold.’ They just want to have fun. You have to take that little extra time to make sure that they’re good,” he said.

In the city of Watertown, most aquatic activities will take place on the Black River. Little has some tips for having fun while keeping yourself safe.

“We have one of the best class 5 rapids in the United States here. That’s why we’ve had the kayaking championships here as well. We advise no kids go near the water here. We don’t want people playing in the river here,” he said.

Little says if you go kayaking, don’t go alone, and be sure to listen to people in your group who are experienced on the water.