Let’s Talk Ice Safety: Ponds and Lakes

Be careful out there. Your life may depend on it.

That is the warning that one local news source in Maine used in its article on ice safety, and it’s true. Winter is coming, and that means not only risky road conditions for driving and traveling, but there’s bound to be dangerous ice to watch out for—on your front driveway, between your car and the office doors, and for those working mostly outside.

Temperatures can plummet overnight, giving precipitation an invitation to make roads, driveways, sidewalks, and water sources icey and treacherous. Area ponds are starting to skim over with ice near shorelines. Smaller ponds have even thicker coatings, and ice-fishing message boards on the internet have indicated that some have begun their fishing seasons already.

No matter where in the country or world you are, you should always be wary of iced over lakes and ponds. These may look like fun ice skating rinks and sturdy adventure sites, but they can easily give in and put you in danger.

A number of charts on the internet say you should stay off ice when it’s less than two inches thick. When it’s three or four inches thick, you may be able to walk or cross-country ski on it. Some charts even say you can probably snow mobile on ice that’s six inches. And if a lake or pond is eight or 12 inches thick? Some data suggests you may be able to drive a car across it.

But as the voices of Maine stress, the key words are may be.

The issue with these conclusions? Many charts assume the ice on the pond or lake is solid, clear blue or black ice. The charts have disclaimers that go unnoticed, the biggest one being that ice thickness will vary from spot to spot.

Walking on an iced over body of water may seem fun, but in doing you so you risk hypothermia and even death. That should give you pause.

The article goes on to give some key tips for ice safety on bodies of water.

  • Check the ice early and often as you walk onto the lake or pond. The thickness of the ice will vary from spot to spot, and water current makes ice thinner. Be careful near points, inlets and outlets, and near rocks that tend to absorb sun heat and melt the ice.
  • Carry a set of picks, as hand held-tools can be lifesavers for a person that has broken through ice and needs to get out of the water.
  • Consider wearing a float coat. Wes Ashe, a state fisheries biologist whose job requires him to spend time on the ice every winter, says he has only once fallen through the ice, but that was enough.

“I now wear a float coat all the time,” Ashe said. “If you don’t own a float coat, don’t be afraid to wear a life jacket under your gear.”

Surprisingly there are a lot of people who do and need to be around ice as parts of their jobs. Ice anglers, fishermen and fisherwomen, ice skaters, snowmobilers, and skiers are all at risk.

When possible, avoid walking on ice-covered bodies of water. However, if something goes wrong and you have to take a polar plunge, following some of these basic tips could save your life.

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