Too cold for Polar Bear Plunge, as annual Maryland event is canceled

They’ve plunged when it’s been windy. They’ve plunged in rain and cold. But Saturday’s just-above-freezing temperatures were a bit too much for the thousands of brave souls who participate in the annual Polar Bear Plunge.

After much deliberation, organizers of the event, in which people dive, tiptoe and, yes, even plunge into the freezing waters of the Chesapeake Bay, said it was simply not safe for people to be in the water.

This is the first time the event has had to be canceled.

The Polar Bear Plunge is such an ingrained Maryland tradition that even Gov. Martin O’Malley was expected to be participate in what would have been the event’s 18th year.

In a note released early Saturday morning, organizers wrote:

“After careful assessment of all contributing factors related to conducting the 18th Annual MSP Polar Bear Plunge, Special Olympics Maryland, in consultation with the Maryland State Police and Maryland Park Service, have made the decision to cancel this year’s Plunge. 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. Additionally, high winds are expected to continue throughout the day with 1-2” of snow . . . also in the forecast. Conditions are only expected to worsen throughout the day.”

More than 7,000 folks had pledged to brave the bay’s icy waters Saturday to raise money for Maryland Special Olympics. There will be no makeup date; organizers said logistics will prevent them from rescheduling.

“Because of the magnitude of the event, including park access, venue set up and expense, there are no alternative dates that could accommodate re-staging the Plunge,” they said in the e-mail.

Still, they noted, there is an upside. The event will raise $1.8 million for Maryland Special Olympics.

The amount is short of the $2.5 million goal but still a reason for participants to be proud.

Lori Aratani writes about how people live, work and play in the D.C. region for The Post’s Transportation and Development team.
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