Winter weather brings thin ice warnings - Fox 28: South Bend, Elkhart IN News, Weather, Sports

Winter weather brings thin ice warnings

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This winter, you could be walking on thin ice - literally. The Indiana Department of Natural Resources is urging us to beware of ice conditions this weekend when planning outdoor activities. 

Winter weather is always a great time and thousands of Hoosiers enjoy outdoor winter activities: fishing, skating, hiking or just sliding around on frozen ponds and lakes.

Unfortunately, people drown after falling through ice every year. That's why the DNR tells us better safe than sorry.

Battalion Chief Al Kirsits of the Penn Township Fire Department says, "Most people just don't use common sense when it comes to ice. And you should understand no ice is the only safe ice that's safe out there. One philosophy is anticipate going through the ice anytime you go out."  

Both Battalion Chief Kirsits and Battalion Chief Jim Cocquyt of the Mishawaka Fire Department train the ice and water rescue teams in St. Joe County. On a typical rescue call, 15 to 20 responders go out, and that's only half of it. Cocquyt adds, "We're going to respond with our boats, our whole surface water crew. With PFD's, throw bags, reaching devices, an inflatable fire house to push out to the victim."

Here are a few tips to remember before going onto a frozen lake or pond:

  • No ice is safe ice.
  • At least 4 inches of ice is recommended for safe ice fishing; 5 inches for snowmobiling.
  • If you don't know, don't go.
  • Wear life jackets or flotation coats.
  • Carry ice hooks and rope gear.

Depending on conditions, ice can change from several inches thick to nearly open water within just a few feet. Flowing water, such as rivers and streams, should be avoided when covered by a layer of ice. Kirsits says, "You can literally move, transition from 6-inches of solid ice to almost open water, or 1 or 2-inches of ice in the same body of water. And that's what the danger is."

Parents are strongly encouraged to closely supervise all activities their children participate in on our frozen waterways. When participating in any recreational activity on ice, partnering up is a must.

But, if you happen to find yourself falling through thin ice, Kirsits says, "Try to hurl your body up, and explode out of the water with your arms. Try to pull if you can. And kick as hard as you can. Keep your body flat across the ice. It will distribute your weight across the ice. And then roll away from the hole once you get yourself out of there."

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