Washington state officials are pleading with residents to exercise extreme caution if their plans include swimming during this time heat peak of the weekend†
Despite temperatures expected to be about 10-15 degrees higher than normal for this time of year, water temperatures will still be very cold, making hypothermia a real risk. Hypothermia becomes a risk when the water is 70 degrees or cooler.
“After a cool and wet spring, most of the population has little to no heat acclimation and may therefore be caught off guard by rapid warming,” noted the National Weather Service’s office in Seattle in an advisory issued June 22.
The advisory also pointed to the increased risk of a “significant increase in cold and flood-related incidents” over the weekend. That’s partly due to the runoff of winter snow through the mountains into lakes, rivers and creeks.
Swimming in the Pacific Ocean will also be a cold and risky venture. In Pacific County, in particularhome to the longest continuous peninsula beach in the world and the popular tourist destination of Long Beach, officials are begging the public to avoid the water.
“The water may look inviting, you may think nothing will happen to you, but PLEASE STAY OUT OF THE WATER,” Scott McDougal, director of the Pacific County Emergency Management Agency, said in a statement on Wednesday.
McDougal added that “the Pacific Ocean in our province is not a safe place to swim” and noted that people are rescued or die every year from rip currents.
Temperatures will peak around the Olympia-Tacoma region on Sunday, rising from around 85 degrees on Saturday or 89 degrees on Sunday. It is during this time that cold water incidents are most common as people escape the heat of the day in the cold water surrounding Puget Sound.
Much of the region falls into the orange category of heat risk, meaning there is moderate risk for those who are sensitive to heat, especially without adequate cooling or hydration.
The Weather Service advises people who are sensitive to heat not to be outside between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. and to eat and dress lightly.
Risk of hypothermia
There is also the risk of hypothermia this weekend wherever you are. Hypothermia is when your body loses heat faster than it can produce, and it can lead to unconsciousness, hospitalization, and death if not treated quickly enough.
Swimming in water that is too cold isn’t safer if you’re near the shore, a boat, or a dock. When it comes to hypothermia from swimming in water that is too cold for the human body, experts say there is a 1-10-1 rule: A swimmer has one minute to control his breathing after being in a cold water shock, which happens within three to five minutes. There are then about 10 minutes for self-rescue and an hour before you become unconscious from hypothermia.
There are multiple ways to protect yourself, including always wearing a life jacket. One of the stages of hypothermia known as “swim failure” occurs three to 30 minutes after exposure, but before hypothermia sets in.
For those planning on going more inland or spending time on the water this weekend but not being in it, the Washington State Department of Ecology is holding a map of beaches with real-time information about closures by province, or a larger map with search function for a specific location. The Ecology department also maintains a poisonous algae bloom update site with a searchable feature. If you want to find a beach in your province, you can use the state beach list can help.
More information about cold water exposure can be found at the National Center for Cold Water Safety†