The Free Press, Mankato, MN


December 2, 2013

Curb winter enthusiasm with ice safety caution

Winter enthusiasts are itching to get out and enjoy the sports that they associate with the season. That’s all well and good, but you can’t rush the formation of ice.

Already in mid-November, a 30-year-old ice fisherman in central Minnesota fell through ice into frigid waters and was in a coma.

Every year the Department of Natural Resources warns people to not venture out onto thin ice and every year people do it anyway. Last season was one of the deadliest for ice fishermen in Minnesota with six people dying after falling through ice.

Although nearly all public safety officials will tell you that ice is unpredictable and can never be deemed “safe,” they also know it’s part of Midwestern culture to get out and enjoy winter sports, many of them on ice. So paying attention to safety guidelines is key. Here is what the the DNR guidelines are for new clear ice:

n 2 inches or fewer: Stay off.

n 4 inches: ice fishing or other activities on foot

n 5 inches: snowmobile or ATV

n 8-12 inches: car or small pickup

n 12-15 inches: medium truck

And these guidelines don’t apply to what’s called white or “snow ice.” The inch recommendations all double for venturing onto that type of ice.

Anyone who decides to go onto ice should be prepared by carrying proper safety equipment, just as you do with any sport. Ice picks are a must-have.

Even in the middle of winter, when temperatures are low and steady, caution is still necessary. Cars, pickups or SUVs should be parked at least 50 feet apart and moved every two hours to prevent sinking.

Enjoying our long winters is important to a lot of Minnesotans’ happiness. Pairing enthusiasm with common sense is a good way to ensure that enjoyment for years to come.

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