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Beware of cold water shock in Washington rivers, lakes

Sunny day in South Lake Union, Seattle. (J. Warne)

It’s set to be a lovely, warm weekend in the Puget Sound area, but that doesn’t mean that jumping into the cold water of a lake or river is a good idea, no matter how inviting it seems.

Why you should wear a life jacket as PNW boating season kicks off

Mountain snow melt runoff is now replenishing the already cold water in the rivers, leading to temperatures in the 40-degree Fahrenheit range. Once you get a foot or so below the surface, those beautiful PNW lakes are really cold too.

“The warmer layer will get deeper as we get into the summer, but right now you don’t have to go very far down before you hit those very cool temperatures,” National Weather Service Meteorologist Dana Felton told KIRO Radio.

Felton says that jumping into a frigid body of water can bring on cold water shock, which is when your body is “literally shocked by the cold temperature” and locks or freezes up. That’s how many people drown here each year.

“It doesn’t take very long before you’re in trouble,” Felton said.

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For that reason, it’s recommended that if you’re going to be around the water, even if you’re in a boat, wear a life jacket.

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