Major Tim Acerno: (603) 271-3129
Jane Vachon: (603) 271-3211
December 29, 2008

Be Safe on the Ice -- N.H. Ice Conditions Unpredictable

CONCORD, N.H. -- Officials at the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department are reminding those getting outdoors this winter to stay safe on the ice. 

"This year, we've already seen wide-ranging temperatures, deep snow and high winds that can shift ice on waterbodies," said Major Tim Acerno of Fish and Game Law Enforcement.
 "Outdoor enthusiasts should always test the ice before venturing out onto ice-covered waters."

Assess ice safety by using an ice chisel or axe to chop a hole in the ice to determine its thickness and condition.  Continue to do this as you get further out on to the ice, because the thickness of the ice will not be uniform all over the waterbody. 

Though all ice is potentially dangerous, the Cold Region Research Laboratory in Hanover, N.H., offers a "rule of thumb" on ice thickness:  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 (All Terrain Vehicle) travel.  Keep in mind that it is possible for ice to be thick, but not strong, because of varying weather conditions.  Weak ice is formed when warming trends break down ice, then the slushy surface re-freezes.  Be especially careful of areas with current, such as inlets, outlets and spring holes, where the ice can be dangerously thin. 

Tips for staying safe on the ice include:

  • Stay off the ice along the shoreline if it is cracked or squishy.  Don't go on the ice during thaws.

  • Watch out for thin, clear or honeycombed ice.  Dark snow and ice may also indicate weak spots.

  • Small bodies of water tend to freeze thicker.  Rivers and lakes are more prone to wind, currents and wave action that weaken ice.

  • Don't gather in large groups on the ice.

  • Don't drive large vehicles onto the ice.

  • If you do break through the ice, don't panic.  Move or swim back to where you fell in, where you know the ice was solid.  Lay both arms on the unbroken ice and kick hard.  This will help lift your body onto the ice.  A set of ice picks can aid you in a self-rescue (wear them around your neck or put them in an easily accessible pocket).  Once out of the water, roll away from the hole until you reach solid ice.

Snowmobile riders should keep ice safety in mind, too. "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.

To download a brochure from Fish and Game called "Safety on Ice - Tips for Anglers," click here.


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NH Fish and Game Dept.
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Concord, NH 03301

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