ODNR: Always assume you’re on ‘thin ice’

Jan 19, 2022 | Ottawa Outdoors | 0 comments

More than 50 ice fishermen had to be rescued from the Lake Erie ice off Catawba Island State Park in March 2019 when strong winds pushed them away from shore on an ice floe. All were rescued by a fleet of air boats and helicopters. (Photo by D’Arcy Patrick Egan)

As frigid winter temperatures settle in this week around Northwest Ohio, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) has a warning for all Ohioans: Be aware of thin ice.  The potential hazards of walking on frozen lakes, ponds, and rivers can be extremely dangerous.

“The cold, snow, and ice adds an extra level of risk to outdoor recreation,” ODNR Director Mary Mertz said.  “No matter how thick it may appear, stepping out on frozen water can lead to tragedy. People need to remember, there is no such thing as 100% safe ice.”

There are a lot of factors that affect the strength of ice besides thickness. Those include:

  • Thawing and refreezing can weaken ice.
  • Pockets of air can form under the ice on lakes where the water levels are raised and lowered by flood control.
  • The insulating effect of snow slows down the freezing process.
  • Ice formed over flowing water and currents is often dangerous.

Water temperatures in lakes and streams remain cold. Cold water will cool a body 25 times faster than cold air of the same temperature. In just minutes, even the best swimmers may experience complete exhaustion and symptoms of hypothermia.

It is always a good idea to plan your outdoor pursuits and share your plan with a trusted friend or family member, especially if you are alone or planning to be on or near frozen water. Plans should include where you are going, what you will be doing, a timeline of your travels, and when you expect to arrive home.

If you see someone fall through the ice, it is important not to go on the ice after them. Ice that breaks once will break again. The best solution is to call for help.

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