Safety precautions in place, ideal weather for annual Decatur ‘Polar Bear Plunge’

DECATUR, Ala. - It's time for an annual tradition in Decatur once again. The 'Polar Bear Plunge', when people take the cold waters of the Tennessee River to bring in the new year, is Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019 at noon.

Entering the new year making a splash goes back decades in the River City. But before people leap from the docks at the Decatur harbor, organizers are making sure that safety is top of mind.

This year they say, if you haven't done it before, the conditions are 'almost perfect.' "The water temperature last time I checked was in the 50s," said William Szczepanski with the Morgan County Rescue Squad.

Relatively warm waters, combined with forecasted low wind speeds and highs in the mid-50s are why Szczepanski says body temperatures should regulate quickly once people are out.

But there will still be plenty of help on hand if needed. "Morgan County Rescue Squad will be here, Decatur Fire and Rescue will be here, first response ambulance will be on the scene, so any kind of medical problems that we run into, we'll have enough medical people on the scene to handle it."

Luckily, past plunges haven't seen anything severe.

"Just minor, when somebody maybe couldn't get out by themselves and we assisted them to get out," said Szczepanski.

Kayakers and divers will be in the water and boats will be temporarily blocked from the landing. "If I was going to do it -- this would be the year I would do it in."

There will be hot chocolate provided for all 'polar bears' who make the jump. Event T-shirts will be sold for $15. All event proceeds go to Meals on Wheels. The program serves meals to around 300 disabled and home-bound residents of Morgan County.

For any questions, contact the Decatur office of Community Action Partnership of North Alabama at (256) 260-3177.

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