Colonel Kevin Jordan: (603) 271-3128
Captain Mike Eastman: (603) 271-3129
January 6, 2023
Concord, NH – New Hampshire Fish and Game Department officials urge outdoor enthusiasts to exercise caution when enjoying winter activities near the ice, including vertical ice and on trails. Parents are also urged to educate themselves about ice safety and share this knowledge with their children to help prevent accidents.
“Caution is in order for those going out onto any ice, especially following the recent extreme fluctuations in temperature and precipitation,” said Colonel Kevin Jordan, Chief of Fish and Game’s Law Enforcement Division. “With erratic weather conditions, some areas of ice may look safe, but may not be. We are urging people to check the ice thickness before going out onto any frozen waterbody.”
Because of changeable ice conditions, it is never advisable to drive vehicles onto the ice. Those on foot should carefully assess ice safety before venturing out by using an ice chisel or auger to determine the thickness and composition of the ice. Continue to do this as you go further out because the thickness of the ice will not be uniform over the entire waterbody. Snow-covered ice can be deceiving and should always be inspected carefully.
Though all ice is potentially dangerous, the U.S. Army Cold Regions Research & Engineering Laboratory in Hanover, NH, offers this advice on ice thickness: There should be a minimum of 6 inches of hard ice before individual foot travel and 8–10 inches of hard ice for snow machine or Off-Highway Recreational Vehicle travel.
Keep in mind that thick ice does not always mean safe ice. It is possible for ice to be thick, but not strong, because of varying weather conditions. Weak ice forms when warming trends break down the ice, then the surface refreezes. 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:
- Don’t venture onto any ice during thaws.
- Stay off the ice along the shoreline if it is cracked or squishy. Docks, rocks, and downed trees absorb the sun’s heat and can cause the ice around them to be thin.
- 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.
- Never gather in groups on less than 8–10 inches of hard ice.
- Always bring along a rescue rope, ice picks, and a personal flotation device such as a float coat or life preserver.
- If you do break through the ice, stay calm. 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 help you pull yourself out; 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.
- If someone you are with breaks through the ice, don’t rush over to the hole—keep yourself safe. Look for something to throw or to use to reach out to the person such as a rope, tree branch, or ice spud. Lie down flat and reach out with your tool. After securing the person, do not stand—wiggle backwards on the solid ice pulling the person with you.
Ice safety is also very important for snowmobilers. Don’t assume a trail is safe just because it exists; check out trail conditions before you go at http://www.nhstateparks.org/activities/snowmobiling/trail-information.aspx.
To watch a short video on how to correctly check ice thickness visit www.wildnh.com/outdoor-recreation/ice-safety.html.