Ice Safety with Dr. Jamie Harker

Winter in northern Minnesota is important for all of us who live here. There are many things we like to do, especially on our frozen lakes. People snowmobile, cross-country ski, snowshoe, ice skates and enjoy all sorts of great winter sports. This year would be a great example of ice that can be unsafe. There are things that we need to watch for to stay safe while enjoying all the things that we like to do up here.

One thing to remember is that ice is never safe. Ice conditions can vary and change throughout the course of the winter. Something that was safe at one point during the winter can become unsafe fairly quickly. It is recommended that to walk on ice you need at least four inches. If you're on an ATV or snowmobile, five to six inches of ice is recommended. If you're driving a vehicle out on the lake, 15 inches is really what the DNR recommends as a minimum safe amount of ice you want to look for.

You want to avoid slushy ice or areas where the ice is really gray. Six or eight inches of honeycomb slushy ice is is not nearly as strong as six or eight inches of real hard clear ice that we get midwinter or early winter right after is freezes.

There are a couple of things that I that I bring along when I go out on the ice. The simplest thing would be ice picks or ice spikes. You can use those spikes to jab into the ice and help pull yourself out of the hole. Another thing that people have nowadays are snow pants and coats that float. Again, it's not going to help you get out of the hole, but it will at least help keep you floating while you figure out how you are going to get out.

Were you to go into the ice, get as horizontal or parallel to the ice as you can and then try and get a leg or part of your body up on the edge of the ice and then roll. You don't want to stand right up and start walking again. You just want to roll and move away from the hole as much as you can. Don't keep trying to go forward when you know that the ice behind you was thick enough to support your weight. You want to turn around and go back toward that thick ice.

Hypothermia is certainly a risk, so make sure you have notified somebody that you trust that that can check on you and make sure that you're you are warming up.