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Rivers pose hypothermia threat

March 20, 1998|By DAVE McMILLION

Rivers pose hypothermia threat

Officials are asking people to take extra precautions on area rivers and streams following several recent boating accidents.

The unseasonably mild temperatures this past winter and spring have attracted a larger than usual number of people to area rivers and streams, officials said.

Almost every weekend people have been on the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers, mostly for kayaking, said Lee Baihly, manger of River and Trail Outfitters in Knoxville, which offers whitewater trips.

"It has lured folks out perhaps a little earlier than normal," said Richard McIntire, spokesman for the Maryland Natural Resources Police.

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But the Natural Resources Police is warning people that boating this time of year carries a risk of hypothermia.

Temperatures in area rivers and streams are in the 40s, and falling into the water can be dangerous. Hypothermia can be fatal because it inhibits a person's ability to swim or stay afloat, according to McIntire's office.

A boating accident a week ago on the Eastern Shore left two men dead as a result of hypothermia. Last Saturday, three Falls Church women suffered hypothermia when they fell in the frigid waters of the Conococheague Creek near U.S. 40 while canoeing in the stream, according to officials.

Boaters can reduce the threat of hypothermia by wearing proper clothing, such as a wetsuit, according to Baihly. Officials also recommend boaters bring along extra clothing and food, flares and some form of communication, such as a cell phone.

McIntire also recommeded that boaters write a plan explaining exactly where they are going and how long it will take.

A copy of the plan can be left with family members or the Natural Resources Police so people will know where the party can be found if there is an accident, McIntire said.

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