Think twice before venturing on ice


Fire chief warns of dangerous conditions


Gary Sigfrinius
Guest Writer

It’s near that time of the year again when local fisherman race each other to be the first on the ice. We in the Forest Lake Fire Department cringe at the thought of the condition of the ice that some of these fisherman are standing on.  We would like to keep our rescue boat in the station this year, rather than responding for someone clinging to the edge of thin ice.

Here are some cold facts about ice:

New ice is usually stronger than old ice. Four inches of clear, newly‑formed ice may support one person on foot, while a foot or more of old, partially‑thawed ice may not.

Ice seldom freezes uniformly. It may be a foot thick in one location and only an inch or two just a few feet away.

Ice formed over flowing water and currents is often dangerous. This is especially true near streams, bridges and culverts, or bodies of water like we have between First and Second Lake. Also, the ice on outside river bends is usually weaker due to the undermining effects of the faster current.

The insulating effect of snow slows down the freezing process. The extra weight also reduces how much weight the ice sheet can support. Also, ice near shore can be weaker than ice that is farther out.

Booming and cracking ice isn’t necessarily dangerous. It only means that the ice is expanding and contracting as the temperature changes.

Schools of fish or flocks of waterfowl can also adversely affect the relative safety of ice. The movement of fish can bring warm water up from the bottom of the lake. In the past, this has opened holes in the ice causing snowmobiles and cars to break through.

For new, clear ice, follow this guideline:

• 2″ or less – stay off

• 4″ – Ice fishing or other activities on foot

• 5″ – Snowmobile or ATV

• 8″ – 12″ – Car or small pickup

• 12″ – 15″ – Medium truck

Every year Minnesotan’s lose their lives due to risks taken on lake and river ice. Hopefully that won’t happen in Forest Lake this year. Be careful and cautious on our lakes and streams!

– The writer is chief of the Forest Lake Fire Department.