RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — With the taste of warmer weather recently and high temperatures forecasted in the 70s all week long in Central Virginia, you’re likely heading out to enjoy it.
Maybe you’re thinking of walking to Belle Isle to go sunbathing, taking the kayak out on the James River, or even dipping your toes into the Atlantic for a trip to Virginia Beach? But hold on — just because the air temperature is warm, doesn’t mean that the water temperature is as well.
Water takes much longer to warm up compared to land. Depending on the depth of the body of water, it can take weeks or even months for water temperatures to respond to warmer weather. So, while it may be tempting to get into the water when it’s in the 70s, the water temperatures are still dangerously low for your body to be submerged — whether you intended to go in the water, or you fall in by accident.
People tend to equate what the temperature feels like to the air, not the water, and that’s a mistake.
According to the National Center for Cold Water Safety, water between 60 and 70 degrees is considered dangerous, with control of your breathing becoming increasingly difficult.
Water between 50 and 60 degrees is very dangerous, they warn, as you experience a total loss of breathing control at these temperatures. Temperatures below 40 degrees they categorize as immediately life-threatening, and that’s where water temperatures are right now in Central Virginia.
Blood vessels constrict in response to sudden cooling. Being immersed in cold water can also cause an increase in heart rate and blood pressure, increasing the danger of heart failure and stroke. Cold shock can cause an immediate loss of breathing control, causing a sudden risk of drowning.
Here’s a look at actual water temperatures in Virginia. From the James River to the Atlantic — they’re in the 40s — well into the danger zone.
Temperatures along the coast of Virginia and North Carolina aren’t any warmer.
Water temperatures along our coast and down into the Outer Banks of North Carolina range from the upper 40s to the low 50s.
In fact, if you’re looking for truly warm water, safe enough to dip your entire body in, you need to head to southern Florida.
So, while you’re out enjoying the warmer temperatures this week, think of activities on the land that are both fun and safe, saving your plans for the water for summertime.
Here are a few readings from buoys in Virginia waters:
- James River at Cartersville – 47°F
- James River at Providence Forge – 48°F
- Sweethall Pier, Chesapeake Bay Reserve – 47°F
- Dahlgren – 43°F
- Lewisetta – 42°F
- Cape Henry – 44 °F
- Buoy 64 nautical miles east of Virginia Beach, 52 °F
To learn more about the dangers of cold water on the body, visit the National Center for Cold Weather Safety here.