BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — May 22 through May 28, 2021 is Safe Boating Week on the Great Lakes. A number of you will take advantage of the nicer weather and get out on the open waters. Before you head out it's important to know the type of weather you'll encounter.
On the Great Lakes a great site for your forecast is www.weather.gov/greatlakes. Here you can get wave height and wind forecast. The Buffalo National Weather Service has a point and click option for inland waters. The Weather Service will also issue all warnings and advisories. For example, they will issue a small craft advisory for when winds are 21-38 miles per hour and/or waves are 4 feet or greater. A special marine warning is issued when winds gust 39 miles per hour or greater, hail of 3/4", and waterspouts. Typically the warning will last less than 2 hours.
One hazard that may not be as obvious is cold water. Warm air doesn’t always mean warm water in lakes, streams or oceans.
55-degree water may not sound very cold, but it can be deadly. Plunging into cold water of any temperature becomes dangerous if you aren’t prepared for what the sudden exposure can do to your body and brain. Warm air temperatures can create a false sense of security for boaters and beach goers, so if you are planning to be on or near the water, arrive knowing the conditions and how to protect yourself.
Cold water drains body heat up to 4 times faster than cold air. When your body hits cold water, “cold shock” can cause dramatic changes in breathing, heart rate and blood pressure. The sudden gasp and rapid breathing alone creates a greater risk of drowning even for confident swimmers in calm waters. In rougher open water this danger increases. Unplanned immersion in cold water can be life-threatening for anyone without protection from the temperatures or a life-jacket to help you stay afloat. When Cold Shock and Hypothermia begin to impact your ability to think and act, life-jackets and flotation can create extra time for help to arrive or for you to get out of danger. Even the most experienced cold water surfers, swimmers or boaters know to prepare for the conditions.
To learn more about cold water hazards and how to protect your family, click here.