Safety tips on the ice - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Safety tips on the ice


MADISON (WKOW) -- These frigid temps have many things freezing, from your feet to area lakes. But the City of Madison Fire Department is reminding people the ice may not be safe to walk on yet.

Fire officials say the ice should be at least 4 or 6 inches thick before someone can walk on it. Even if the weather has been below freezing for several days, don't guess about ice thickness.

In preparation for winter weather, the Department's Lake Rescue team is transitioning to its cold-weather equipment, including insulated wetsuits and an ARGO amphibious all-terrain vehicle.

Parents in particular should warn children to stay off of the ice, but the following safety tips from the Madison Fire Dept. apply to all ages:

  • Check the ice in several places, beginning at shore and continuing as you go out.
  • If ice at the shoreline is cracked or squishy, stay off. Don't go on the ice during thaws.
  • Watch out for thin, clear, or honeycomb shaped ice.
  • Dark snow and dark ice are other signs of weak spots.
  • Choose small bodies of water. Rivers and lakes are prone to wind and wave action, which can break ice up quickly.
  • Avoid areas with currents and around bridges and pressure ridges.
  • Use the buddy system – don't go out on the ice alone.
  • More information comes from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources:
  • Contact local sport shops to ask about ice conditions on the lake or river you want to fish.
  • Do not go out alone, carry a cell phone, and let people know where you are going and when you'll return home.
  • Wear proper clothing and equipment, including a float coat to help you stay afloat and to help slow body heat loss; take extra mittens or gloves so you always have a dry pair.
  • Wear creepers attached to boots to prevent slipping on clear ice.
  • Carry a spud bar to check the ice while walking to new areas.
  • Carry a couple of spikes and a length of light rope in an easily accessible pocket to help pull yourself – or others – out of the ice.
  • Do not travel in unfamiliar areas or at night.
  • Know if the lake has inlets, outlets or narrows that have current that can thin the ice.
  • Look for clear ice. Clear ice is generally stronger than ice with air bubbles in it or snow on it.
  • Watch out for pressure ridges or ice heaves. These can be dangerous due to thin ice and open water and may be an obstruction you may hit with a car, truck or snowmobile.
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