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Near tragedy at Reelfoot Lake should be wakeup call for everyone

Near tragedy at Reelfoot Lake should be wakeup call for everyone

Posted: Friday, January 1, 2010 3:01 pm
By: By Brent Callicott

Near tragedy at Reelfoot Lake should be wakeup call for everyone | Brent Callicott
I want to start out my column this week hoping each of you read this past Monday’s edition of the Messenger. Why you ask? The recent weather related hunting/boating accident that took place on Reelfoot Lake Christmas Day. These folks are lucky enough to have lived to tell their stories and how important it is to pay close attention to the weather forecast before venturing out on any body of water no matter what time of year it is. A couple of things they did truly saved their lives.
Just so happens, it was windy, very cold with cold water temperatures. With several days left of the waterfowl season and the wintertime fishing season here, I thought I would give a few important guidelines to follow as well as let folks know the “what ifs” during cold water dealings.
First and foremost, pay very close attention to the weather forecast way before your outdoor outing.
What happens
in cold water?
Cold water removes heat from the body 25 times faster than cold air. About 50 percent of that heat loss occurs through the head. Physical activity such as swimming or other struggling in the water increases heat loss. Survival time can be reduced to minutes. Strong swimmers have died before swimming 100 yards in cold water. In water under 40 degrees F, victims have died before swimming 100 feet.
Cold Shock
1. Without a life jacket, a victim may inhale while under water (involuntary gasping reflex) and drown without coming back to the surface. This can only be prevented by wearing a life jacket at all times on the water in the off-season. There is no second chance.
2. Exposure of the head and chest to cold water causes sudden increases in heart rate and blood pressure that may result in cardiac arrest.
3. Other responses to cold water immersion result in immediate loss of consciousness and drowning.
Hypothermia (decreased body temperature) develops more slowly than the immediate effects of cold shock. Survival curves show that an adult dressed in average clothing may remain conscious for an hour at 40 degrees F and perhaps 2-3 hours at 50 degrees (water temp). The crisis is more serious than these numbers suggest. Any movement in the water accelerates heat loss. Survival time can be reduced to minutes. Hands rapidly become numb and useless. Without thermal protection, swimming is not possible. The victim, though conscious, is soon helpless. Without a life jacket, drowning is unavoidable.
Even with a wet suit/dry suit on, one’s hands rapidly become useless in water in the low 40s. Protective fingerless gloves for fishermen can be important. Shivering occurs as body temperature drops from 97 degrees down to about 90 degrees F. Uncontrolled rapid breathing follows the initial gasping response and may cause loss of consciousness. The victim must attempt to recover control of his/her breathing rate.
Muscle rigidity and loss of manual dexterity, physical helplessness, occurs at about 93 degrees. Mental capacity also deteriorates at this point.
Unconsciousness occurs when the body’s core temperature reaches about 86 degrees. If drowning doesn’t occur first, death occurs at a core temperature of about 80 degrees.
Once in the water
Try to get back in or on your boat immediately. Do not leave the boat. If you are not wearing thermal protection and cannot get out of the water, stay as still as possible. Fold arms, cross legs and float quietly on the buoyancy of your PFD until help arrives (Heat Escape Lessening Posture; H.E.L.P.). If two or more people are in the water, put your arms around one another. Stay still and close together (huddle posture).
Planning Ahead
Wear clothing that permits safe cold-water immersion and a life jacket. It is the only way to combat the risk posed by cold-water boating. Carry dry clothing in a waterproof bag. Tie a bailer and paddle to your boat. Evaluate the flotation in your boat. A short sling tied to the transom, with a foot rest in the loop, may assist boat re-entry. Attach a whistle or horn to your life jacket.
Tell someone where you are going and when you will return. Inform them of your return. Check the weather forecast for the day.
As for the hunting and fishing scene.
The weather has been a little to tough the last few days and couple of weeks for much crappie fishing but I know a few diehards have been out there hammering away. Not any crappie reports to pass along as of press time.
I will say that Reelfoot has plenty of fresh water and the water temps have dropped. The water temps are in the mid- to upper 30s and look for that to drop even more. I would be surprised to see Reelfoot Lake freeze over by Sunday or Monday to some extent. The Lower Blue Basin and some parts of the Upper Blue Basin areas my not freeze because of its deep waters, but conditions do look like to be shaping up for a possible frozen lake and other area bodies of water around West Tennessee.
The weather forecast is not looking all that good for fishermen or duck hunters. The prediction is for the day or nighttime temperature to not get above freezing until at least Wednesday of next week, maybe longer.
Cold water will cause a possible baitfish kill and fish will get all the food they want. This is not good for the fisherman to a point but will pay off in the long run though.
As for the duck hunting, things have really slowed down again from most of the reports I have had. It seems that the ducks in the area now are mainly old ducks and use to the surroundings.
I spoke with Jon Ed Powers of Final Flight Outfitters Wednesday afternoon and he said, “From what we are hearing, not many ducks at all there around these parts right now. We are finally picking up a few Canada geese, and I do mean a few, in the last couple of days.” Jon Ed went on to say that central Illinois is starting to do very well on the Canadas. He also said that we should continue to see more of them in the next few days as we are set to receive our coldest weather of the year in conjunction with a full moon. As for the ducks, rainfall that a lot of areas north of us received before Christmas has scattered them out even further and has given them more areas to feed and roost in. There is a pretty good amount of snow on the ground in those areas so that will help as it gets colder.
Since this being a holiday period, duck counts may not resume ‘til next week.
Mississippi River Stages and predictions. 12/31/09 (41.0), 1/1/10 (40.7), 1/2/09 (40.3) and 1/3/09 (39.3).
I would also like to pass along that a good friend of mine and my family, Dr. Robert E. Clendenin Jr. of Union City, has published a photo book on Reelfoot Lake.
This book is filled with pictures taken from all around Reelfoot Lake on the water. It is a hardback book filled with around 80 colorful pictures that Dr. Clendenin took himself over the past few years.
A person who holds Reelfoot Lake dear to his heart, he wanted to share his love for Reelfoot Lake by doing this book. This book is for sale and you can get your copy by either going by Lanzer Printing Company in Union City or by calling the Dr. Clendenin and requesting a copy at 731-885-2322. I have my copy and gave my father one for Christmas. It is a must to have if you are a person who has spent much time or not on Reelfoot Lake.
In closing, I hope each of you out there in readers land had a great and wonderful Christmas. I know I did. I was so blessed to the family time I had, especially the time well spent with my sister and her family who drove 16 hours from Huntingtown, Md., to spend Christmas with us. Vesa, Kim, Nicole and Victoria, thank you for making our Christmas even more special with your visit. Also, for my grandmother, Zelma Denton, who has been in rehad since the fist of December, getting out for the first time spending a few hours with us. She is a rehad patient at the Golden Living Center here in Union City.
As you read this column, the new year 2010 is here. I hope each of you either outdoors people or not have a happy new 2010 year. Thank you for the past several months for the kind compliments you have shared with me on my column, being all new to me, I love every word I write.
I am looking forward to 2010 and the many things I have a opportunity to write and share with you.

’til next week’s report…
catch ya on the water folks
Published in The Messenger 1.1.10

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