Caution tape across unsafe ice
  • When is ice safe?

    • No ice is considered safe. There is no reliable "inch-thickness" to determine if ice is safe. Your safety is your responsibility!
    • Test ice thickness and quality using a spud, needle bar or auger.
    • Strongest ice: Clear with bluish tint.
    • Weak ice: ice formed by melted and refrozen snow. Appears milky.

    Tools you'll need

    • Spud: Long-shank with a chisel-like end that’s used to chip a hole in the ice. Use this when the ice isn’t too thick.
    • Auger: Corkscrew-like device with a cutting blade that operates like a hand drill to make a hole in the ice.
    • Lifejacket
    • Ice picks/claws
    • Two-way communication device that receives signal.

    Ice covered by snow:

    • Should always be considered unsafe.
    • Snow acts like an insulating blanket and slows freezing process.
    • Ice under snow is thin and weak.
    • A recent snowfall can melt existing ice.

    Caution:

    • Stay off ice with slush on top. Slush ice is only half as strong as clear ice and indicates the ice is not freezing from the bottom.
    • A sudden cold front with low temperatures can create cracks within a half-day.
    • A warm spell may take several days to weaken ice, and cause the ice to thaw during the day and refreeze at night.
    • Ice weakens with age.
    • If there’s ice on the lake but water around the shoreline, be extra cautious.
    • Stronger the current on the lake, the more likely the ice will give to open water.
    • Avoid areas of ice with protruding debris like logs or brush.

    If you do break through the ice:

    • Remain calm
    • Don’t remove winter clothing. Heavy clothes won’t drag you down, but instead provide warmth.
    • Turn in the water toward the direction you came from, this is most likely the strongest ice.
    • If you have ice picks, dig the points of the picks into the ice while vigorously kicking your feet to pull yourself onto the surface by sliding forward on the ice.
    • Roll away from the area of weak ice. Rolling on the ice will distribute your weight to help avoid breaking through again.
    • Get to shelter and remove your wet clothing, redressing in warm, dry clothing and consume warm, non-alcoholic, non-caffeinated beverages as soon as you can.
    • Call 911 and seek medical attention if you feel disoriented, have uncontrollable shivering or have any other ill effects that may be symptoms of hypothermia, which is a life-threatening condition.
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