Langley – The temperatures and the shoreline scenery may be different in the winter months, but many still consider this time of the year to be perfect for a visit to Grand and Hudson lakes. In fact, boating, fishing and hunting take place all around the lakes, all around the year.
Safe boating is also something that should be practiced year-round, and when you are on the water in the winter, there are some extra precautions you should keep in mind. The Grand River Dam Authority Police Department says a December 29 incident on Grand Lake – when two duck hunters were saved from the frigid lake waters by two other hunters – should serve as a reminder of those special winter boating precautions.
“Cell phones are of greater importance in the winter,” said GRDA Superintendent of Homeland Security Chris Carlson. “There are just fewer boaters around to flag down for emergency and non-emergency help.”
A whistle – attached to your life jacket – is also an important for winter-time boaters. Carlson added that producing a loud and effective call for help with a whistle takes less energy than shouting for help and waving your arms.
Also, because cold water can rob the body of its heat 25 times faster than cold air, it drastically reduces the time of exposure needed to experience hypothermia.
“So if your boat does capsize, your main priority is to get as much of your body out of the water as possible,” said Carlson. “If you can, climb on to the overturned vessel or nearby debris or get to the nearest shore or dock.”
Also, in cold winter temperatures, wet clothing is actually colder than less clothing and can lead to hypothermia more quickly.
“So you should remove as much of the wet clothing as possible as soon as possible,” said Carlson. “You will be warmer with less clothing than with wet clothing.”
In fact, dressing properly for winter boating is a very important step that should not be overlooked. While many people dress in additional layers to guard against the cold temperatures, they need to know that those layers can present a hazard if you do accidentally go into the water. When other clothing is tucked into bibbed overalls or wading pants it can actually cause the water to be trapped. That can cause the amount of energy needed to stay afloat to increase considerably at a time when muscles are cramping and movements are increasingly more difficult. It is very important that life jackets must have sufficient flotation to support heavy, water-logged clothing.
Of course, the other option is to simply dress for the outing in proper winter boating attire, said Carlson. “There is a wide range of flotation-equipped cold weather gear available. It is designed to provide an individual with all the warmth they need without sacrificing safety.”
Whether you are boating in January or July, it is also important to file a “float plan” any time you visit the water. Let someone know where you intend to be boating, who is going with you and when you expect to return. Providing a description of the vessel and the number of occupants is also important. Having a vessel that is in good working order is also very important.
Finally, when lake waters turn to ice patches, its best to stay clear of the area, whether you are in a boat or just walking along the shore. Typically Oklahoma does not get those below freezing periods that generate ice that is thick enough to safely stand on.
“With that being said, it is possible for the ice to be weak enough to fall through in one area and thick enough to trap you underneath if you didn’t come right up to the top of the water in the same location,” said Carlson. “With no leverage in the water, and no chance of getting a gasp of air between the ice and water, this could prove deadly fast.”
By taking proper winter-time precautions, wearing proper gear and practicing the common sense boating safety tips that are applicable year-round, boaters can still enjoy the waters of Grand and Hudson lakes no matter what the calendar is showing.
Headquartered in Vinita, GRDA is Oklahoma’s state-owned electric utility; fully funded by revenues from electric and water sales instead of taxes. Directly or indirectly, GRDA’s low-cost, reliable; electricity serves nearly 500,000 homes in Oklahoma and stretches into 75 of 77 counties in the state. At no cost to Oklahoma taxpayers, GRDA also manages 70,000 surface acres of lakes in the state, including Grand Lake, Lake Hudson and the W.R. Holway Reservoir. Today, GRDA’s 500 employees continue to produce the same “power for progress” that has benefited the state for 75-plus years.
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