abc
QUICK LINKS:

Special Report: Hypothermia Year-round Threat in Lake Superior


By: Justin Liles

Lake Superior is know for its beautiful water, rocky shores, sandy beaches, and clean, cool water. But cooling off from the summer heat can be dangerous.

"Since 2006 there have been three deaths in the Apostle Islands caused by hypothermia," according to former kayak instructor and park ranger, Ana Pratt.

Pratt knows these waters and knows just how cold it can be.

"Lake Superior temperatures are 39 degrees all year round... only the surface temps are changing."

Capitan Brent Consie of the Duluth Fire Department says one of the things about hypothermia is that people can be lulled into a false sense of security in the summertime.

But hypothermia is a condition that can happen 12 months out of year in Duluth.

"Statistics would show that a person in 50-degree water would begin to go unconscious in 1 to 1.5 hours, and their survival time is about 2-3 hours after that," according to Consie.

Water extracts heat from the body 25 times faster then air. That's something Pratt found out quickly while snorkeling in Lake Superior two weeks ago.

"After 40 minutes I had pretty much lost feeling in my arms and hands. At one point, I was barely able to get my fins off and had to climb up onto and sun heated rock and couldn't move," she said.

Rescue workers from the Duluth Fire Department train for such instances when a person becomes helpless in water. 

If you find yourself in the water with your life jacket on assume the position known as HELP: Heat Escape Lessening Posture. The technique, involving putting your arms across your torso and pulling your legs towards your chest, keeps the heat from leaving your body as quickly. 

"Hypothermia starts, you obviously start shivering uncontrollably, your body temperature goes down from 98 to 93 degrees and you may find you can't count back words from 10," according to Consie.

Both Pratt and Consie say wearing a life jacket is key.

It's also important to wear layers like a wicking layer near your skin, followed by fleece and then something to block the wind. Wearing anything cotton is strongly discouraged.

Front Page

  • Shaniya Chism Missing Duluth Kids Found in Buffalo, New York

    The Duluth Police Department says two children reported missing have been found safe.  The department announced Friday evening that 7-month-old Shaniya Chism and 2-year-old Jameicia Chapman were found in Buffalo, New York.

  • Girls-Only Shop Class Aims to Narrow Industry Gender Gaps

    More women are now pursuing STEM fields, but there's still huge gender gaps in industries like manufacturing, machining and carpentry. a girls-only shop class at one Northland high school might be a way to change that.

  • FEMA Awards Grant to Lake County to Mitigate Structure Fires

    FEMA has awarded Lake County, Minnesota over $500,000 in a grant for the addition of metal roofing to 65 residential and commercial structures. Construction on some of the buildings can start as soon as the roofing season in northeastern Minnesota begins.

  • MN Congressional Delegation and Lt. Gov. Meet at White House About Steel Imports

    Minnesota's federal lawmakers met with officials at the White House on Friday, to press their case about the problem of steel imports.

  • Gogebic Taconite Withdraws Wisconsin Application

    The state Department of Natural Resources says a company that was looking to open a huge iron mine in northern Wisconsin has officially withdrawn its plans. Gogebic Taconite was considering digging a 4½-mile long mine in the Penokee Hills just south of Lake Superior but announced last month it was closing its office in Hurley and future investment in the project wasn't feasible.

 
Advertisement