Heading out on Lake Michigan? Dress for water temperature, not air temperature

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Our recent reprieve from bitterly cold temperatures means more people are heading back out onto Lake Michigan and other bodies of water. But this time of year, officials with the U.S. Coast Guard say such excursions are much more dangerous.

"The water temperature here today in Lake Michigan in Milwaukee is 36 degrees," said Ensign Thomas Morrell of the U.S. Coast Guard.

Morrell says even 70-degree temperatures are considered cold water -- and you can get hypothermia a lot faster in the winter months.

"You lose your dexterity of your hands you can kind of lose situational awareness," said Morrell. "As things get colder outside, there's a higher risk of, you know, just boating safety in general. Water temperature's colder and your survivability decreases a lot. So we like people to take precautions and not take chances."

That means dressing for the water temperature and not the air temperature. Morrell also recommends wearing a dry suit if you have one. If you don't he suggests a wicking material close to your body topped off with a wool outer layer and a personal flotation device.

If you think no one is out on the water these days, think again.

"We actually had an assist two weeks ago of two people who were less than half a mile off shore of Ozaukee County who went out, their boat started taking on water," said Morrell. "So we helped the Port Washington Police Department, towing them back in and before they got back to shore, one of the two individuals was actually already hypothermic."