The recent stretch of cold weather may have some individuals believing that it is safe to venture out on frozen water ways. However, conservation officers are quick to point out that individuals should be careful when it comes to outdoor recreational activities such as ice fishing or even walking out on ice covered ponds, lakes or rivers.
The aforementioned waterways should never be considered 100 percent safe, even following extended periods of below freezing temperatures. Ice related activities could rapidly change and become more hazardous in the coming days as a warming trend arrives. Indiana Conservation officer Gary Catron was quick to add that there is no such thing as “safe ice,” only safer ice.
A concern is that a waterway which appears to be solid and frozen may in reality be a thin layer of ice unable to sustain someone’s weight. With a slight warming, the thickness of ice can diminish rapidly.
There is an obvious danger of falling through the ice and drowning, but hypothermia is another danger for individuals unable to free themselves from icy water.
A number of factors effect the quality and strength of ice as it forms. Pro-longed sub-freezing temperatures can form a thick layer of solid ice. However, safe ice does not form nearly as quickly or solid over moving water such as a river or underwater springs. The thickness of ice is also affected by obstructions such as tree stumps or rocks. It is equally important to note that ice thickness does not remain consistent on the same body of water.
According to Catron, a rule of thumb is that four inches of “good ice” is usually safe to fish, walk or skate on; however, in order to sustain the weight of a snowmobile five or six inches is the minimum required.