A Few Points To Better Understand Ice





PIERRE – If it hasn’t happened already, it will not be long before ice forms throughout South Dakota, and people planning to be on the ice are reminded that there is no sure answer for ice being safe.

"Just because a lake or stream is frozen does not mean the ice is safe," said Safety Administrator Bill Shattuck. "Ice is deceptive, can be very dangerous and people can be injured or killed if it is not respected."

To better understand ice, some points to consider include:

To determine what activities can safely take place on ice, a rule of thumb is:
- 2 inches of clear, solid ice is usually safe for one person walking
- 4 inches of the same kind of ice is usually safe for ice fishing
- 5 inches of the same kind of ice is usually safe for snowmobiling
- 8-12 inches is usually safe for vehicles to be on ice, but driving should be avoided
whenever possible. Traveling in a vehicle on ice, especially early or late in the season, is simply a matter of an accident waiting to happen.

New ice is usually stronger than old ice. As ice ages, the bond between the crystals makes it more dangerous and weaker even if melting has not occurred.

Wind speeds influence ice formation. Light winds speed up the formation. Strong winds force water from beneath the ice and can decay the edges of the ice.

Snow can insulate ice and keep it strong. It can also insulate it to keep it from freezing. When ice is covered by snow, great precautions need to be taken to determine ice thickness before starting any activity. Snow can also hide cracked, weak and open water areas.

Slush is a danger sign. Slush indicates that ice is no longer freezing from the bottom. Slush also indicates weak or deteriorated ice.

Ice can change with the surrounding climate conditions. Temperature, precipitation, wind speed, ice age and water depth and water quality are all factors that affect ice strength and thickness.

Never check ice or rescue a victim of ice failure alone because you could go from rescuer to victim very quickly.

Individuals should wear a flotation device and ice picks when on questionable ice. They should also carry ice picks whenever on ice, as they may never know when they may need them to pull themselves out. Everyone should have a set. Two short lengths of broom handle or dowel with sharpened nails in one end and joined with a piece of string can be easily carried in a pocket.

"Precautions need to be taken to assure ice is safe for your winter recreational activities," Shattuck added. "Always check the ice before going out on it. Be aware that ice thickness and strength can vary from location to location. By following safety procedures, sportsmen and other recreational enthusiasts can safely enjoy any winter recreational activity."

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