So far we are lucky in that we have had a very mild November and just a few light dustings of snow but starting last night the temperatures have dropped and it sounds like they are going to stay quite cold for at least the foreseeable future. Minnesotans love all their lakes, ponds and other bodies of water but this time of year can be very dangerous if you are not familiar with the ice situation! Every year when it starts to get cold several people die unnecessarily that have gone out on ice that was too thin and fallen in or they suffer from severe hypothermia if they are lucky enough to make it out alive.
Even people that have grown up in Minnesota need to always remember the dangers of the ice. We tend to get overly anxious to get out there and sometimes forget to use common sense. If you have children you need to be especially careful. Now there is a light coating of ice on the water and if a child’s ball rolls out onto that thin layer a child may well run out after the ball resulting in tragedy. Children don’t understand that they cannot go out on the ice until it is several inches thick.
Some general rules to follow are that if there are posted signs about the ice, follow them no matter how the ice looks to you, flowing water doesn’t ever really freeze solidly, so avoid ice on streams and rivers, some lakes and ponds have pumps in some areas, these create a current like that in a river which means that any ice that forms will not be good ice, and ice under bridges, docks and other structures tends to be much weaker than ice out in the open. If you are out on a frozen body of water and you see an open hole get away from the area as the ice may be thin there. Also beware of snow on the ice. Snow does two things – it makes it seem like the water must be frozen and it heeds the development of ice as it acts as insulation.
The general rule is that you need 4-6 inches of ice for walking to be safe, 5 inches for a snowmobile, 8-12 inches for a car and 12-15 inches for trucks and vans. If you are walking in a group you might need a bit more than if you are walking alone. These tips and more information can be found here.
Going out on the ice is a lot of fun, but as with any activity, you always have to keep the dangers in mind and respect Mother Nature.