DARGAN — Three duck hunters are OK after becoming stranded in their boat on an icy Potomac River for about two hours Saturday morning, emergency service officials said.
The call for the stranded hunters in a disabled boat downstream of the Dargan boat ramp came in shortly after 8 a.m., a Washington County 911 supervisor said.
Rescuers were able to bring the hunters ashore a little after 10 a.m., the 911 supervisor said.
The National Weather Service's closest weather station to that area was to the north in Shepherdstown, where the air temperature was about 2 degrees at 8 a.m. and had risen to 13 degrees by 10 a.m., said meteorologist Connor Belak with the Baltimore/Washington forecast office. Winds were calm around that time so the station didn't report wind chill readings, he said.
Potomac Valley Fire Co. Chief Roger Otzelberger Jr. said the hunters' boat had a mechanical issue and they couldn't paddle to shore because they were in the middle of ice.
The hunters were dressed for the cold weather, Otzelberger said.
They also were wearing their personal floatation devices, said Oley Griffith, coordinator of volunteer services with the Washington County Division of Emergency Services.
The river was open, but there were patches of ice coming downstream, Griffith said. The ice wasn't always visible until it was about on you, he said.
First-responders on rescue boats would break a channel out, clear away the ice and the ice would come behind the boat and clog the motor so it would have to be cleared out, Otzelberger said.
Responding rescue boats were from Potomac Valley Fire; Jefferson County, W.Va.; Brunswick, Md.; Frederick County, Md., and a Washington County Division of Emergency Services boat stationed at Sharpsburg fire hall, officials said.
Otzelberger said 31 emergency service personnel responded, including from Potomac Valley, Sharpsburg fire and EMS companies, Brunswick ambulance and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.
Winter recreation on the river
Recreation on the river is year-round, including people fishing for walleye and muskie or hunting waterfowl, Griffith said.
Lauren Moses, spokeswoman for the Maryland Natural Resources Police, provided the following tips for boaters and fishers navigating the Upper Potomac River during the winter:
Anyone aboard a vessel, raft or tube should wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved Type I, II, III or V life jacket at all times when on the Upper Potomac River and its tributaries between Nov. 15 and the following May 15.
Wear warm clothing, including a drysuit or survival suit
Make sure to have an effective communication device.
Check your vessel for malfunctions and ensure you have proper and up-to-date safety equipment.
Check the weather before leaving
Otzelberger said it's important to know where you are on the river in case you need to call for help.
Washington County 911's ability to pinpoint cellphone callers improved in June, Brian Albert, assistant director of emergency services in charge of the 911 center, has said.
Cold temperatures sticking around
The cold temperatures are expected to stick around for a while, Belak said.
It might get a little above freezing Sunday and could be near 40 Tuesday, Belak said. Then another cold front is expected to move in, providing low temperatures in the single digits on Wednesday and Thursday, Belak said.
Forecasters are keeping an eye out for a potential winter storm next weekend, he said.
This article originally appeared on The Herald-Mail: Duck hunters stranded on Potomac River in freezing temperatures rescued