When the weather gets cold, many Kansans enjoy fun outdoor activities such as ice skating and ice fishing. But as you venture out, remember ice safety is crucial to safely enjoying the cold kiss of winter. Falling through the ice can lead to serious injury or death if precautions are not taken.
In general, most authorities recommend at least 4 inches of ice for standing, skating and ice fishing. Snowmobiles require at least 5 inches of ice, and anything above 12 inches will support a medium-sized truck. However, ice strength is determined by many factors:
- Color — clear ice is twice as strong as “snow ice,” also called white ice. Double measurements above for white or snow ice.
- Distance to shore — ice closer to the shoreline is weaker than the ice farther out.
- River outlets and inlets — the ice around outlets and inlets is weaker.
- Obstructions — trees, rocks and plants sticking up through the ice weaken the surrounding ice.
- Water currents — can cause cracks, holes, weak spots, or front pressure ridges created by the currents.
- Cover of snow — snow hides what’s underneath; always make sure what’s beneath is stable enough to hold your weight.
Ice fishing can be an exciting winter activity if done safely. Kansas Wildlife, Parks and Tourism recommends only fishing on clear, solid ice at least 4 inches thick. To determine the ice thickness, make test holes with an ice auger before going out and avoid areas with currents or big areas where waterfowl might’ve been roosting as they may have created holes in the ice.
If someone does fall through the ice into the freezing water below, WeatherNation offers these steps to get to safety:
Stay calm. The shock of the cold will cause your heart rate to increase and cause you to gasp for air. Try to focus on your breathing to get back to a normal breathing state.
Focus on getting out. Get rid of any excess weight such as a backpack. If underwater, find the hole you fell through by looking for contrasting light and swim for the small spot that looks different from the rest.
Get yourself out. If you are on your own, grab the edge of the ice and get as horizontal as possible in the water. The ice will be too slippery, so kicking like a seal should propel you onto the ice. If that doesn’t work, conserve your energy and heat while waiting for help.
Roll to safety. Once out, roll for as long as possible until the ice is thick enough to support you. Retrace your steps to get off the water.
Surviving the cold. Remove any wet clothing and find shelter. Get warm as quickly as possible, even by exercising to get the blood flowing in the body. It is better to warm up slowly than quickly.
The most important safety aspects to remember: Never go out on the water alone and make sure to know the conditions of the ice before venturing too far from shore. By practicing these safety tips, you can prevent ice accidents and possibly save yourself and others from bodily harm or death.