LA CROSSE, Wisconsin (WXOW) - For many people, going fishing and ice skating is part of what makes winter enjoyable. And with temperatures forecasted in the mid to upper 30s through Friday, this will be an ideal time to enjoy your favorite winter pastime. But the warm weather may increase risks on the ice.
"If we get a nice sunny day and it's warm," said Don Dominick, Onalaska Fire Department Chief, "There's going to be moisture, water, on top of the ice. If it's super cold that night, everything is going to look as if it were an ice rink that was just hit by a Zamboni. That doesn't necessarily insure that what's under it is safe. So you have to be careful."
Predicting how much weight ice can support is tricky. The most common way people gauge the safety of ice is by its thickness. But ice thickness can vary from one spot to another. And just because ice is a certain thickness doesn't necessarily mean it's safe.
"The reason I'm reluctant to say ‘here's a number [ice thickness] and now it's safe,'" said Chief Dominick. "Is because of various conditions Mother Nature has when ice is formed, pressures that are on it, thaws, refreezes. But that's why I think the importance is observation… The shortest way out there may not be the safest as far as ice."
Good safety protocol includes never going out on to frozen lakes and rivers alone, and surveying the ice for changes in color, a slushy or honeycomb appearance, or water on the surface. These are all indications that the ice may not be safe to be on.
And if you have any reservations about the ice, be safe and stay off it.
If you do fall through the ice, handheld ice picks can be a helpful tool to get out of the water safely. These picks have metal tips that can be dug into the ice so you can pull yourself out of the water and back onto the ice.
Once back on the ice, it is important to evenly disperse your weight to prevent the ice from breaking further. Chief Dominick suggests rolling from where you pull yourself out of the water to more solid ice.
Ice spud bars are another useful tool that can be used to test changes in ice thickness, density and sound before you walk on it.
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