47 Deadly Ice Crossing Dangers To Avoid

Identify unsafe ice and spot hazardous situations.
47 Deadly ice dangers
Photo by Minnesota Dept. of Natural Resources

10 ESSENTIAL ICE FACTS

1. In 32.5 degree Fahrenheit, most immersed adults should expect exhaustion or unconsciousness to take effect in less than 15 minutes.

2. New ice is stronger than older, weathered ice.

3. Direct freezing of lake water is stronger than ice formed from melting snow or refrozen ice.

4. Obstructions such as rocks, logs, vegetation and pilings can affect the strength of the ice.

6. Ice shifting and expanding will create pressure cracks and ridges around underwater obstructions.

7. Underwater streams or springs with flowing water will cause weak spots by keeping the water circulating.

8. Ice near the shore of a frozen lake may be unsafe. Ice closer to shore is weaker because of shifting, expansion and sunlight reflecting off of the bottom of the lake, causing it to continually thaw and refreeze.

9. Ice can form pressure cracks that are potentially hazardous to cross.

10. Stay off honeycomb-like ice; it’s inundated with air pockets and is unstable

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CRITICAL ICE RESCUE STEPS

1. Call 911.

2. Survey the scene. Is the scene safe?

3. Make a rescue plan. Utilize a survival suit or flotation device, if available.

4. Tie a rope to your waist if possible.

5. Have someone on shore hold the end of one rope so they can help extract you and the victim.

6. Slide out on thin ice atop a boat or on a ladder laid on the ice to disperse your weight.

7. Throw a rope to the victim, if conscious.

8. To pull out an unconscious victim, tie a slipknot and slip the attached rope under the victim’s armpits and tighten it around their chest.

9. Extract the victim with help from others on the surface pulling the rope.

10. Make sure the victim removes all wet clothing, gently dries their skin and immediately gets covered with warm, dry clothing and blankets.

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8 KEYS TO SAFE ICE CROSSING

1. Ice varies in thickness and condition. Always carry an ice spud, a chisel, an ice auger or a cordless drill with a long bit to check the ice’s strength as you proceed across new or unproven territory.

2. Be extremely cautious crossing ice near river mouths, points of land, bridges, islands, and over reefs and springs due to changing water currents forming inconsistent ice.

3. Avoid going onto the ice if it has melted away from the shore. This indicates that melting is underway.

4. Ice can shift position as wind direction changes.

5. Waves from open water can quickly break up large areas of ice. If you can see open water and the wind picks up, get off the ice.

6. When ice crossing carry a set of ice picks to help you work your way out onto the surface of the ice if you fall through. Holding one in each hand, you can punch them into the ice and pull yourself up and out to safety.

7. Carry a throw rope that can be thrown to someone who has gone through the ice.

8. Leave your vehicle off the ice, but make sure there’s at least 6 inches of hard, clear ice if you insist on driving on a frozen lake or river.

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10 WAYS TO SURVIVE THE DRIVE

1. Don’t drive on less than 6 inches of solid ice or on top of heavy slush or surface water.

2. Roll down all vehicle windows in case a quick escape is necessary while in transit.

3. Remove all safety belts while driving on ice to allow for a quick escape, unless local law prohibits this.

4. Turn off the car radio when driving and limit your distractions to listen and feel for breaking ice.

5. Follow ice roads when possible, as these generally have stronger ice due to compaction.

6. Never park vehicles close together while on ice. Allow at least 50 feet between vehicles.

7. Move vehicles periodically and look for upwelling water around auto tires as an indicator of sinking ice.

8. Stay away from river and stream mouths and underwater obstructions.

9. Make sure to use extra caution when crossing pressure cracks and pressure-crack ridges.

10. Check your auto insurance to ensure you will be covered in the event of an ice-related accident.

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9 STEPS: ESCAPE FREEZING WATER

If you find yourself suddenly falling into frigid water, your first few minutes are the most crucial, so make them count. Follow these steps in an emergency.

1. Take a deep breath, if you can still breathe air.

2. If you are under water, remain calm, hold your breath and look for the surface opening.

3. Once you reach the edge of the ice, drape your hands and arms as far from the edge of the ice as possible.

4. Punch the pick side of your ice picks into the ice as far from the ice as you can possibly reach. (A knife, writing pen or screwdriver may be used in lieu of ice picks if available.)

5. At the same time, flutter kick as hard as you can with your feet to create momentum.

6. Continuously try to distance yourself from the ice opening with your arms and ice picks.

7. Wiggle your torso like a worm and fight to get up onto the ice in a horizontal position.

8. Once on the ice’s surface, roll your body away from the opening until you are on solid ice.

9. Get off of the ice and to a shelter/heat source as soon as possible and seek medical attention.

This article was originally published in the SURVIVOR’S EDGE ™ Spring 2015 issue. Subscription is available in print and digital editions here.