If you live in a place where snowy and icy winters are the norm, you know the dangers of falling through the ice. And this guide is especially pertinent for those areas of the country where freezing weather only visits sporadically. When frigid temps descend for a short time upon a location that’s not used to seeing them, people, especially children, are apt to go out exploring their neighborhood ponds and reservoirs. As you can imagine, this creates a danger because the cold weather hasn’t been around long enough to create ice strong enough to walk on. That very scenario has happened here in Tulsa this winter, where two young men, in separate accidents, both drowned when venturing out onto a thinly-frozen creek and pond. So be sure to share this guide with your kids after you study the info yourself.
While no ice is guaranteed to be safe to walk on, the general rule of thumb is that you shouldn’t venture out onto clear ice that is less than 2 inches thick. An even safer bet is 4 inches. And if it’s “snow ice” or white ice, it’ll need to be double that to support you.
If you know you’ll be on ice, it’s also a good idea to carry rescue ice picks with you. They’re cheap, and could make the difference between life and death. You can also make your own with a couple nails and dowels.
Big thanks to Lieutenant Harold Osborn of Denver’s North Metro Fire Rescue District for consulting on this piece.
PS-We’re not making up that bit about your beard. Watch this video for this and other fascinating and life-saving insights from a hypothermia expert and thermophysiologist.
Illustration by Ted Slampyak
Last updated: February 8, 2016