Staying Safe on the Ice

Water Safety is especially important to those living in Minnesota considering the large number of lakes and rivers. As the leaves disappear and the temperatures drop, it’s time to discuss ice safety and provide tips for keeping everyone safe on and near the ice.When is Ice Safe? Most water safety experts agree that ice is probably never 100 percent safe. The strength of ice is based on many factors that must all be considered, including appearance, age, thickness, temperature and whether or not the ice is covered with snow. Snow acts as an insulator and slows down the freezing process. In addition, the weight of the snow reduces the weight that can be supported by ice.

Additional factors to consider include the depth of water under the ice, the size of the body of water, the water chemistry and currents. Even the movement of fish can bring warm water up from the bottom of the lake, opening holes that cause snowmobiles and cars to break through. Flocks of waterfowl can also adversely affect the relative safety of ice.

General ice thickness guidelines are available on the MN Department of Natural Resources website. The recommendation to drive a medium sized truck is 12″ to 15″ thickness of ice, taking into consideration the above-mentioned factors as well. There are several suggestions for checking ice thickness including the use of an ice chisel, ice auger, cordless drill and tape measure. If you must drive a vehicle out on the ice, have a plan for you and your passengers in case you break through. Carry tools such as rope, ice picks and a flotation device to assist in getting you or a companion out of the water.

Additional safe travel tips go to the MN DNR website. A general brochure on ice safety can also be found on the site.

For more water safety information, check out our water safety resources page.

Have fun this winter, but stay safe!