Winter ice safety rules

January 25, 2010

by Jenni Sebora

Winter sets the stage for different forms of entertainment for us. Skiing, skating, ice fishing, snowmobiling, snow shoeing, sledding, tubing, and, of course, the making of snow men, angels, forts, and balls, and the list goes on.

As these can be fun-filled activities and good exercise, safety must also be at the forefront before and while engaging in these hobbies.

Frozen ponds, rivers, and lakes are an inviting play area for children. After the deep freeze we’ve recently been through, we all want to get outside. While it is fun to walk, skate, snowmobile, and fish on the ice, there are definite precautions to take.

About 600 people die in the US every year from hypothermia, and we should always be prepared.

While studying with my son for his snowmobile permit, and the hand-outs published by Boat and Water Safety, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, one of the dangers cautioned of is breaking though the ice with your sled.

The general ice thickness guidelines are a good reminder for us all:

• 2” or less - STAY OFF

• 4” - Ice fishing or other activities on foot

• 5” - Snowmobile or ATV

• 8” - 12” - Car or small pickup

• 12” - 15” - Medium truck

These guidelines are for new clear ice only. The DNR materials explain that many conditions affect the strength and stability:

• Currents, streams, and flow from culverts can weaken ice.

• Snow cover on ice can affect how ice freezes, and the weight of snow can reduce the amount of weight ice can support

• Schools of fish can bring warm water up form the bottom, which can open up holes in the ice.

The DNR also recommends carrying short lengths of a broom handle with nails sharpened on both ends joined together with a piece of rope to assist you in pulling yourself back up onto the ice should you fall through.

Stay safe.