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Frozen harbor gives way to North Hempstead's first 'Polar Spray, Sprinkle, Shower'

People take a "polar shower" during the 11th

People take a "polar shower" during the 11th annual North Hempstead Beach Park Polar Plunge in Port Washington on Saturday, March 7, 2015. Rather than having participants plunge into Hempstead Harbor due to the ice, they were instead hosed down by the Port Washington Fire Department. Credit: Ed Betz

This winter's record low temperatures have complicated plans for commuters, travelers and homeowners on Long Island. But the Special Olympics of New York Long Island Division wasn't going to let the harsh weather get in the way of its own annual icy plans, when the site of their 11th annual North Hempstead Beach Park Polar Plunge froze over.

“Because of all the snow and cold weather we have been having, the harbor is still frozen,” Rebecca Strickland, local Special Olympics development associate said. “We came up with the 'Polar Spray, Sprinkle, Shower,' so we wouldn’t have to cancel.”

Rather than run into the water of Hempstead Harbor as usual, this year’s participants would run onto the snow-covered beach, Then be sprayed by a fire hose from two stories above a Bayville Fire Department truck.

“We’re still going to be freezing for a reason,” Strickland said before the event. “We think it’s going to be more exciting than ever.”

This is Commack resident Ruthann Eagen’s ninth year participating in the North Hempstead Beach plunge, and she was apprehensive about the fire hose.

“I’m more nervous about the spraying because I can’t control how far I go into the water or how wet I get,” Eagen said.

At noon on Saturday, more than 500 plungers wearing costumes and bathing suits were led by a solo bagpiper onto the beach. They waited several minutes in chilly anticipation for the fire hose to release. After the initial spray that shot directly at a few unfortunate front row participants, the firefighters adjusted the nozzle and showered the entire crowd, much of which scattered off the beach screaming.

“It wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be,” plunger Jennifer Pinto, 27 of Brentwood, said. “I’m just waiting to feel my feet again.”

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