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It may seem counter-intuitive, but as the weather warms up, the dangers of hypothermia actually go up as well. In fact, this might be the most dangerous time of year to get on one of the area rivers… and not just because they are running high (which they obviously aren’t this year.) Much of the water in the rivers is still coming out of the snow instead of sitting in a reservoir. Water sucks the heat out of your body 25 times faster than air, and hypothermia can strike within minutes of immersion in water this cold.

In water that is less than 40 degrees (a likely range for rivers melting from snow) unconsciousness can occur in as little as 15 minutes. But what makes hypothermia even more insidious is often you aren’t even aware you are suffering from it until it’s too late. Confusion, abnormal behavior, and even “drunkenness” can prevent you from getting the help you need. Unless you are fully prepared and experienced in cold water running, you might want to wait until the river drops and the water warms.

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