Thin ice and ice safety
The Winnebago County Conser-vation Board wants to remind people to beware of thin ice on area lakes and rivers. Due to a warmer than usual winter, many lakes and rivers still do not have adequate ice to support a variety of ice-related activities. In addition, many lakes, including Lake Catherine at Thorpe Park, have aerators now turned on; and ice will always be thinner near the open water created by aerators, even once colder weather settles in.
The guidelines for ice safety state that ice that is three inches thick or less is not safe under any circumstance and a minimum of four inches of ice is needed for ice-fishing. Even then, it is recommended that people do not walk in a large group over ice that thin. To snowmobile safely on the ice, there should be at least five to six inches of ice, while eight to 12 inches of ice are required for a car to travel safely. If you plan to drive a medium-sized truck over the ice, there should be at least 12”-15” of ice. All of these recommendations are assuming that the ice is new, clear, and solid.
People should also remember a few other ice safety rules, including constantly checking the thickness of the ice, since ice thickness can vary so due to many factors, such as snow cover, water depth, underwater currents, etc. Also, never drive a snowmobile fast across a frozen lake, especially at night, since holes and other ice weaknesses cannot always be seen fast enough to allow avoidance. If driving in an enclosed vehicle, do not use your seat belt and keep your window rolled down; that way you can escape your vehicle quickly if it begins to fall through the ice.
Other common sense recommendations are to always wear a life vest under your winter clothes (both for warmth and for buoyancy), except when driving in an enclosed vehicle where a life jacket may hinder your escape through a window. Also, always carry ice rescue claws in case you do fall in and never, under any circumstances, should you drink alcoholic beverages while traveling on the ice. Not only could just a couple drinks impair your judgment, but alcohol actually decreases your body temperature.
Although ice is still thin in many places, it should thicken as the winter goes on, and everyone is encouraged to get out and enjoy it. But, even as we head into the coldest days of winter, it is important to remember these ice safety rules. After all, there is no ice that is 100 percent safe. So, always know how to stay safe when you are on top of the ice and what to do in case you suddenly find yourself in the ice-cold water of a lake or river.
For more information on ice safety, you can check out the Minnesota DNR’s web page on ice safety: http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/safety/ice/index.html.