Too Cold for Polar Bears: One Plunge Canceled

Organizers of second plunge had to break ice so participants could get into the water

Apparently, it can be too cold even for people who, for some reason, enjoy running into icy water, over and over again.

The 18th annual Maryland State Police Polar Bear Plunge at Sandy Point State Park in Maryland was canceled Saturday morning due to bitter cold and winds that whipped drifts of snow and ice onto the shoreline.

Saturday's plunge was expected to have as many as 7,000 participants. It also features so-called Super Plungers, who dip into the water repeatedly over 24 hours. All the Super Plungers had raised at least $10,000 for charity.

One set of Super Plungers hit the water at 10 a.m. Friday. About 500 law enforcement officers -- including some from Prince George's County -- took a dip at noon to raise money for the Special Olympics.

But even those devoted souls said the conditions were challenging. There was ice in the water, which complicated the start of the plunge.

"There's no running today, because there's ice in the water and the ice will cut your legs," one participant said.

"Last year was cold, but it was nowhere near as cold as this," said another, as he sat in a hot tub to recover from his plunge. Organizers tried to help participants compensate for the bitterly cold temperatures by providing hot tubs and warming tents.

As he sat in the tub, he touched the top of his head: His wet hair had frozen.

Organizers finally gave in to the weather at about 7:40 a.m. Saturday. In a statement, the organizers said, "A combination of high winds gusting up to 25 mph has created three-foot waves. Combined with freezing temperatures, this has created a large build up of snow and ice on the shore resulting in unsafe conditions for Plungers."

The statement said this year's plunge was on track to raise $1.8 million for Special Olympics Maryland, short of its $2.5 million goal.

As you might expect from people who willingly run into the Chesapeake Bay when temperatures are in the single digits, reaction to the news was mixed. "Weak," scoffed one Twitter user.

However, another Polar Bear Plunge did happen Saturday. At National Harbor, the "Keep Winter Cold" plunge organized to raise awareness of climate change still took place.

But ice was an issue there as well; before the planned 11 a.m. plunge, organizers were seen breaking the ice along the shore with pickaxes and sledgehammers.

The D.C. area, like much of the country, has been in the grip of historic cold, with temperatures well under historic averages for a week.

Contact Us