2014-02-27 / Outdoors

DNR reminds public of ice safety measures

Tips to abide by while enjoying the outdoors

LANSING – As spring approaches, the Department of Natural Resources urges ice anglers and snowmobilers to remember: No ice is safe ice.

“We want to remind ice fishermen and snowmobilers that thawing will occur and that will definitely weaken ice,” said Lt. Andrew Turner, marine safety and education supervisor for the DNR Law Enforcement Division. “By following some guidelines on how ice looks and feels, you can avoid your day of ice fishing ending as a life-threatening incident.”

According to Turner, you can’t always tell the strength of ice simply by its look, its thickness, the temperature or whether or not it is covered with snow. Here are some quick things to look for when venturing on ice:

Clear ice that has a bluish tint is the strongest. Ice formed by melted and refrozen snow appears milky, and is very porous and weak.

Ice covered by snow always should be presumed unsafe. Snow acts like an insulating blanket and slows the freezing process. Ice under the snow will be thinner and weaker. A snowfall also can warm up and melt existing ice.

If there is slush on the ice, stay off. Slush ice is only about half as strong as clear ice and indicates the ice is no longer freezing from the bottom.

Turner said anglers should be especially cautious in areas where air temperatures have fluctuated. A warm spell may take several days to weaken the ice; however, when temperatures vary widely, causing the ice to thaw during the day and refreeze at night, the result is a weak, “spongy” or honeycombed ice that is unsafe, he said.

The DNR does not recommend the standard “inch-thickness” guide used by many anglers and snowmobilers to determine ice safety because ice seldom forms at a uniform rate.

“I personally would never recommend that you take a car or truck onto the ice,” Turner said. “But those are personal decisions. I would urge that anyone wear a life jacket, wear bright colors and take a cell phone when walking onto a frozen lake or river. Also, bring along a set of ice picks or ice claws, which you can find in most sporting goods shops.”

If you do break through, Turner offered the following tips:

• Try to remain calm.

• Don’t remove your winter clothing. Heavy clothes won’t drag you down, but instead can trap air to provide warmth and flotation. This is especially true with a snowmobile suit.

• Turn in the water toward the direction you came from - that is probably the strongest ice.

• If you have them, dig the points of the picks into the ice and, while vigorously kicking your feet, 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, heat, warm dry clothing and warm, non-alcoholic and non-caffeinated drinks.

• 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 (the life-threatening drop in the body’s core temperature). Above from left, master anglers in the ages 8-16 category at the 2013 Little Jiggers Derby were: Matthew Wood, Cameron Lee, Cole Demers, Jerry Jack and Kendra Weber. Below, winners in the seven and under category included Olivia Tiglas, Ellie Nedeau, Micah Way, Wyatt Demers and Johnathan Weber.

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