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New Haven plunge coincides with plunge in temps

NEW HAVEN-- Watching college football, in front of the fireplace, or sharing a family meal to mark the new year certainly two popular choices for New Year's Day. But, folks in New Haven have a more startling tradition.

Lighthouse Point Park was the spot for the 16th annual Plunge for Parks.

It has been so cold that organizers had to clear away ice that had formed on the shore from the water line back up the beach by about 15 or 20 feet.

Matthew Feiner, of New Haven, who has taken the plunge for 10 consecutive years said he likes “doing extreme things like I skydive and like being out in really extreme conditions.”

Extreme? How's 12 degrees and a steady breeze at 12:15 when the countdown began?

The water temperature is in the 30's.

As he was towel drying, Chris Pettker of New Haven noted that “The ice is forming on me. It’s been nothing like this” in the past 10 years that he has plunged.

Participating in an event like this, under these extreme conditions, was very concerning to a local emergency room doctor, especially with regard to hypothermia.

“It can be quicker and more severe and longer lasting,” said Dr. Charles Wira of Yale-New Haven Hospital.

Organizers were surprised this many people showed up, but they were not going to cancel the event “because we have a lot of food that’s been donated and we can’t keep it,” said Marge Ottenbreit, President of Elm City Parks Conservancy. “We said let’s just go forward and get it over with.”

An ambulance crew kept a close eye on all the participants, looking for signs of “shivering, altered mental status, lack of coordination, numbness and tingling, weak pulse,” said Amy Ramos, a paramedic for AMR.

“I was hoping that my soon to be step son would say ‘I don’t want to go’ because that was going to be our out but he was like ‘let’s do it,’” said Dana Brinker of Meriden

One man even brought a cooler full of hot water to step into immediately after he emerged from the ocean.