Jumping into the water to cool off on a hot day might sound good, but experts say it's risky in the Puget Sound region because the water is still cold.
Local lakes and rivers can run 40 degrees or colder. If you fall or jump in, you might experience cold water immersion, or so-called, cold water shock. You gasp and if you inhale water, it spells trouble.
"In many cases, you sink right there and you die," warned Derek Van Dyke, Boating Safety Coordinator for Washington State Parks. "In the Puget Sound area we've been trained to worry about hypothermia. 'Hypothermia Kills.’ What we're finding out is hypothermia is not what kills. It's the cold water immersion, cold water shock."
Dan Shipman, boating specialist for the 13th Coast Guard District, says to think of water survival in terms of 1-10-1. One minute to recover from the cold water shock, ten minutes to "self rescue" like getting back into the boat or grabbing a branch and hauling yourself back onshore before your limbs get too cold to function, and then one hour before hypothermia sets in.
"Hypothermia is survivable. That's why you have to wear a life jacket. Give us a chance to find you," said Shipman.
Van Dyke says there are more than 150 life jacket stands around the state where residents can borrow life jackets for free.