Tuesday, February 16, 2016

How to know if ice is safe

As a Texan, I'm used to warnings, procedures, and tips about safety when it comes to tornadoes. After all, Texas has more tornadoes strike than any other state. The injuries and damage are devastating and even more so when you realize that most of the time, there was nothing that could be done to prevent it. And then there are always those that don't heed the warnings and do foolish things and suffer their own consequences. And if you're not from Texas (or any other tornado state), this all seems rather foreign. Today, the shoe was on the other foot as I read an article in this month's Franklin Focus called "Ice: Is It Safe?" The article opens with "Each year about this time, the Maine Warden Service urges us to use extreme caution before venturing out onto any ice that may be covering Maine's waterways." Those wardens must be as frustrated as Texas Department of Public Safety officials who get the message out year after year only to have a few who ignore the information. Alas. Humans will be human.

Meanwhile, did you know there was such a thing as an Ice Strength Table? Check it out! The directions say "Never guess the thickness of the ice. Check it! Check the ice in several different places using an auger or some other means to make a test hole and determine the thickness. Make several, beginning at the shore, and continuing as you go out. Check the ice with a partner so if something does happen, someone is there to help you. If you are doing it alone, wear a life jacket."

Here's where it should start to be obvious, even if you aren't from Maine or didn't grow up in places that have ice over bodies of water: "If ice at the shoreline is cracked or squishy, stay off!" I also liked this piece of advice: "Parents should alert children of unsafe ice in their area, and make sure that they stay off the ice. If they insist on using their new skates, suggest an indoor skating rink."

Modified from the Northeast Logger Magazine, 1968.

Inches of Ice
Permissible Load for Clear Blue Ice
Unsafe for humans
One person on foot
Group in a single file
Snowmobiles & ATV’s
Passenger car (2 tons)
Light truck (2.5 tons)
Note: The above table is for clear blue ice on lakes and ponds.

Here's some interesting math: "Reduce the strength values by 15% for clear blue river ice." So 2" is safe for 85% of one person on foot? Maybe it's 2.33" to be safe for one person on foot?

And I'm not sure what this means, but I'm fascinated: "Slush ice is only 50%  the strength of blue ice."

There's no mention of what to do when the ice is covered by snow.

It turns out, I don't really have to worry about any of this. My motto is: "Stay off the ice unless ice fishing and then trust the people you're with to know if it's safe." And only go ice fishing with someone who does it all the time without consuming adult beverages.

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