Surviving the Elements: Hypothermia, Hyperthermia, Exposure, Inclement Weather
Millions of visitors come to Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area each year to enjoy the splendor and natural beauty preserved here for their benefit. Inclement weather can be unpredictable and extremely dangerous or fatal, even if every reasonable precaution has been taken. To ensure your safe enjoyment of the park, please take a moment to learn about the possible weather and environment-related dangers you might face, and remember: always dress appropriately for the weather.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), "hypothermia…abnormally low body temperature…affects the brain, making the victim unable to think clearly or move well. This makes hypothermia particularly dangerous because a person may not know it is happening and won't be able to do anything about it."
Warning signs of hypothermia may include:
If you notice any of these signs, or if body temperature dips below normal, take immediate action: Call (570) 426-2457 in the park for emergency medical assistance; Get to a warm room or shelter; Remove any wet clothing; Warm the center of the body first (chest, neck, head and groin), with an electric blanket if possible; skin-to-skin contact under dry layers of loose blankets or clothing will help, too; Warm, non-alcoholic beverages will help increase body temperature; Keep dry and covered while awaiting the arrival of emergency medical services providers.
Hyperthermia and Heat-related Illness
Heat stroke is the most serious heat-related illness. It occurs when the body becomes unable to control its temperature: the body's temperature rises rapidly, the sweating mechanism fails, and the body is unable to cool down. Body temperature may rise to 106°F or higher within 10 to 15 minutes. Heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not provided.
Heat exhaustion is a milder form of heat-related illness that can develop after several days of exposure to high temperatures and inadequate or unbalanced replacement of fluids. Those most prone to heat exhaustion are elderly people, those with high blood pressure, and those working or exercising in a hot environment.
Extreme weather (electrical storms, flash floods, high winds and tornadoes)
Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area is located in a temperate climate zone with four distinct seasons, and generally predictable weather patterns. However, extreme weather is by its nature unpredictable, and visitors caught unawares in an electrical storm, tornado, or flash flood may find themselves fighting for survival. Being aware of the potential dangers of extreme weather before you come to the park may mean the difference between life and death. Always check the weather forecast before you go.
In the Delaware Valley, lightning storms can come swiftly and unannounced. Whatever you are doing, be it paddling or picnicking, take steps at the first sign of thunder and lightning to protect you and your loved ones: When paddling or boating, move to shore at the first sound of thunder-if you can hear thunder, you can be struck by lightning. On the river, you will often be the highest point for many yards in every direction, and water is a spectacularly efficient conductor for electricity. Don't dawdle! Once ashore, stand on your lifejacket or PFD to dampen electrical shocks. When engaged in any land-based activity (hiking, climbing, horseback riding, etc.), seek shelter at the first sound of thunder. Trees make poor shelter from lightning-according to the National Weather Service, "there is no safe place outside when thunderstorms are in the area." Their advice? "When thunder roars, get indoors!"
Many of the premier attractions at Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, from our storied waterfalls to our eponymous river, are as dangerous as they are beautiful in inclement weather. Though it may take several days for the Delaware River to rise above flood stage, creeks and streams can overflow their banks and become lethally dangerous in mere moments.
To avoid loss or injury during flood events, please take the following precautions:
High Winds and Tornadoes
Though tornadoes are relatively uncommon in the vicinity of Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, a small number have touched down in recent years. However, many storms bring high winds which can lead to falling branches, and occasionally entire trees. Falling branches and trees can cause significant danger: blocking roadways, trails, and knocking down power lines.
During a storm with high winds, or a potential tornado, follow these precautions:
If you observe downed or hazardous trees along roadways, trails, or near campsites, please contact Park Dispatch at 570-426-2457.