National Weather Service launches paddle craft risk alerts

By on April 10, 2018

Even on days when the weather criteria are not met, cold water is still dangerous. (NWS photo)

The National Weather Service office in Wakefield, Va., which covers the counties north of the Albemarle Sound, including Currituck, has launched an effort to warn kayakers and canoists about the risks associated with being on the water during early spring and late fall.

In coordination with the U.S. Coast Guard, the weather office will be issuing a paddle craft risk alert when air temperatures warm above 60 degrees, but water temperatures remain below 60 degrees, according to Jeff Orrock, Meteorologist in Charge at NWS Wakefield.

“We are part of a pilot program dovetailing off a program in the northeast from Boston north,” Orrock said.

While the Newport-Morehead City weather office, which covers the Albemarle Sound and waters to the south, is currently not participating, Orrock noted the alerts may go national in the next year or so.

“The program targets primarily ‘fair’ weather days when individuals will likely start to venture out on the water in small paddle crafts such as kayaks, canoes and paddle boards,” Orrock said.

Just a few weeks after the alerts started being issued, two kayakers were rescued from the Currituck Sound, on a day when air temperatures rose to the mid-70s, the water was still in the low-50s.

Waves driven by winds over 30 mph capsized the kayaks and hampered rescue efforts. The two were hospitalized for hypothermia.

Coast Guard statistics show the second-most number of deaths on the water in 2015 involved kayaks, and there has been an increasing trend in kayak- and paddleboard-related incidents and fatalities over the last decade.

Alerts are being posted on the NWS Wakefield Facebook and Twitter pages with the hashtag #paddlecraftrisk.

» Click here to learn more about the paddle craft risk program

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