DEC reminds us to be safe on ice

RAY BROOK - With winter in full swing, officials with the state Department of Environmental Conservation remind outdoor enthusiasts to practice safety on iced-over water bodies.

Hiking, snowshoeing, skiing, and skating on frozen lakes and ponds are among the many winter delights enjoyed by residents and visitors of the Adirondack Park.

Nothing can ruin a good pond hockey game like a crack in the ice.

David Winchell is spokesman for DEC Region 5 in Ray Brook. He says the agency offers safety tips, but never comes out and says it's 100 percent safe to be on the ice.

"You never know," he said. "All conditions are different, depending on factors like shoreline seeps, underwater springs, currents, inlets, outlets, bubblers - there's a lot of different things that can effect the safety of ice. The one thing that we always say is check the ice thickness before going out on it. If there's up to three-to-four inches, then it's safe to go out on foot."

Winchell says between three and four inches is safe for human traffic - but the DEC stops short of recommending thickness for motorized vehicles.

Officials say there's no way to be sure when the ice is safe for trucks or snowmobiles, so it's best to air on the side of caution.

"We don't encourage people to take vehicles on the ice - people do, but we're not going to give recommendations on when it's safe to bring vehicles on or anything like that," he said.

The best way to determine the thickness of ice is to pack an ice pick or an auger, Winchell says.

"This early in the season, you could probably take some sort of bar with a point - like a wrecking bar - or an ice axe and just chip through the ice to see what the thickness is," he said.

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