The N.H. Fish and Game Department and local officials are getting reports of unsafe ice around the state. “Recent warm weather, rain and wind have made ice conditions unsafe in most parts of the state, although some small lakes and ponds are frozen over,” said Col. Martin Garabedian, Chief of N.H. Fish and Game’s Law Enforcement Division. “Be patient and wait for solid ice. Before you go out on the ice, check the thickness for yourself.”
As the temperatures continue to fall in coming weeks, and the ice begins to thicken, assess ice safety before you go out by using an ice chisel or auger to determine its thickness and condition. Continue to do this as you get further out on to the ice, because the thickness of the ice will not be uniform all over the waterbody.
Though all ice is potentially dangerous, the U.S. Army Cold Regions Research & Engineering Laboratory in Hanover, N.H., offers a “rule of thumb” on ice thickness: There should be a minimum of six inches of hard ice before individual foot travel, and eight to ten inches of hard ice for snow machine or ATV (All Terrain Vehicle) travel. Keep in mind that it is possible for ice to be thick, but not strong, because of varying weather conditions. Weak ice is formed when warming trends break down ice, then the slushy surface re-freezes. Be especially careful of areas with current, such as inlets, outlets and spring holes, where the ice can be dangerously thin.
Tips for staying safe on the ice include:
- Stay off the ice along the shoreline if it is cracked or squishy. Don’t go on the ice during thaws.
- Watch out for thin, clear or honeycombed ice. Dark snow and ice may also indicate weak spots.
- Small bodies of water tend to freeze thicker. Rivers and lakes are more prone to wind, currents and wave action that weaken ice.
- Don’t gather in large groups or drive large vehicles onto the ice.
If you do break through the ice, don’t panic. Move or swim back to where you fell in, where you know the ice was solid. Lay both arms on the unbroken ice and kick hard. This will help lift your body onto the ice. A set of ice picks can aid you in a self-rescue (wear them around your neck or put them in an easily accessible pocket). Once out of the water, roll away from the hole until you reach solid ice.
Ice safety is just as important for snowmobilers. Don’t assume a trail is safe just because it exists; ask about trail conditions at local snowmobile clubs or sporting goods shops before you go.