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Lt. Bruce Bonenfant: (603) 271-3129
Jane Vachon: (603) 271-3211
January 19, 2007

N.H. Ice Conditions Unpredictable -- Check Before You Go Out on Ice

CONCORD, N.H. -- Winter has made its appearance in New Hampshire at last, but the warm weather and uneven temperatures that have prevailed in the state so far this season mean the condition of ice on New Hampshire's waterbodies is unpredictable at best and could be treacherous. New Hampshire Fish and Game officials urge outdoor enthusiasts to play it safe and check ice carefully before venturing onto ice-covered waters.

"Always test the ice -- don't just head out blindly across a lake," said Major Tim Acerno, who coordinates OHRV education and enforcement for Fish and Game. How can you tell if ice is safe? There are no guarantees -- always consider ice potentially dangerous. Assess ice safety by using an ice chisel to chop a hole in the ice to determine its thickness and condition. Make sure you continue to do this as you go further out on to the ice, because the thickness of the ice will not be uniform all over the pond or lake.

The Cold Region Research Laboratory in Hanover offers a "rule of thumb" on ice thickness, suggesting that there should be a minimum of six inches of hard ice before individual foot travel, and eight to ten inches of hard ice for snow machine or ATV travel. Don't rely totally on these guidelines this year, though, cautions Acerno. Ice may be thick, but not strong, because of varying weather conditions. Warming trends can break down the ice, and the slushy surface then freezes, forming weaker ice.

Ice can be especially treacherous for children. "NEVER allow children to go out on the ice by themselves," said Acerno. "And don't ever let children venture onto the ice on rivers and streams, because the current makes the ice so unpredictable."

Ponds and lakes can present areas of unsafe ice as well, especially in places with current, like inlets, outlets and spring holes, where the ice can be dangerously thin.

Snowmobile enthusiasts should be especially careful to keep ice safety in mind. "Riders should remember to check local conditions before heading out on snowmobile trails or on the ice. Don't assume a trail is safe just because it's there!" says Acerno. Ask about conditions at local snowmobile clubs or sporting goods shops before you go.

Click here to download the Fish and Game pamphlet "Safety on Ice - Tips for Anglers." (PDF format)

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