Maj. Tim Acerno: (603) 271-3129
Jane Vachon: (603) 271-3211
December 21, 2007
N.H. Ice Conditions Unpredictable - "Know before You Go"
CONCORD, N.H. - The deep snow already covering the state may mask unsafe ice conditions, cautions Major Tim Acerno of the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department. Outdoor enthusiasts are urged to play it safe and check ice carefully before venturing onto ice-covered waters.
"Snow-covered lakes might appear to be safe, but the snow can hide places where the ice is dangerous. Don't assume that if the ice is safe on one part of a waterbody, it is safe throughout." said Acerno. "Also, deep snow can have an insulating effect, causing ice not to form as fast."
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 snowmobile track going across the water is safe just because it's there!" says Acerno. Ask about conditions at local snowmobile clubs or sporting goods shops before you go.
Another hidden ice hazard is fluctuating water levels. An example of this hazard is Highland Lake in Andover, where the dam is undergoing extensive repairs. Work crews have had to raise and lower the water level because of the extent of the repairs. When the water level is lowered, air pockets form, causing dangerous conditions. The Fish and Game Department cautions all users to stay off the ice on Highland Lake in Andover and other bodies of water where water levels are constantly changing.
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. Depth is not the only factor -- warming trends can break down the ice, and the slushy surface then re-freezes into 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 highly unpredictable."
Ponds and lakes can present areas of unsafe ice, especially in places with current, like inlets, outlets and spring holes, where the ice can remain dangerously thin.