Water Blogged

Nancy Green


KUED Producer, Nancy Green, specializes in the production of documentaries for local, regional, and national PBS broadcast. Her work at KUED spans nearly 25 years, focusing on diverse topics, including healthcare, the arts, history, and the outdoors. Recent, films include, Homeless at the End, Search & Rescue, The Utah Bucket List, Maynard...Read more

As soon as I hit the water, I realized I was in trouble.

It was cold -- really cold.  Colder than anything I’d ever experienced.  My hands felt like they were on fire with pins and needles, and soon became useless.  Fortunately, I had a life jacket on, and I was only a few strokes away from a dock.  I was taking part in a demonstration run by Utah State Parks to show how cold water can be life threatening.  Yes, I had volunteered to jump into 45-degree water.  I never said I was bright.

But I’m glad I did it.  Joining me in the plunge was Utah County Search and Rescue volunteer, Kevin Dickerson.  He’s amazing, and crazy.  He did a front flip into the water, without a life jacket on.  Kevin is in fantastic shape, he’s a triathlete, a paramedic, and in my eyes, a super hero.  But none of that helped him while he was in the water.  Hypothermia doesn’t care how good a swimmer you are or how great a shape your in.  When you hit water below 50 degrees you can experience cold shock. You automatically gasp for air, and if your head goes under the surface you could inhale water and drown.  A personal flotation device keeps your head above water.  You might gasp, but you won’t drown.

Safety Tips

If you do find yourself unexpectedly in cold water, concentrate on keeping your breathing regular and steady.  The good news is that hypothermia can take a while to set in. The speed varies with water temperature and body mass, but it can take 30 minutes or more, so if you can get to safety, your chances of survival are good.

Here are some tips from Utah State Parks:

  1. Always wear a life jacket
  2. Recreate with a buddy
  3. Stay calm; get control of your breathing
  4. Focus on meaningful movements, getting back in the boat or to shore
  5. Have a ladder, or a method to re-board your boat
  6. Carry a cell phone in a waterproof container.

Even in warmer water, hypothermia can set in if you’re exposed long enough. Sadly, the recent tragedy at Bear Lake was a wake up call to that fact. Utah weather can change in an instant. Being prepared and being informed can save your life, and the lives of your loved ones.

For more boating safety info, visit:

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