Ice safety is a serious concern in winter, especially in an El Niño winter, and checking ice thickness on frozen water bodies could save lives.

"We haven't really seen cold temperatures or a lot of that snow or kind of what we would know is a typical winter in Saskatchewan," said Spokesperson for the Water Security Agency, Patrick Boyle. 

He said the ice situation this winter has the potential to be quite hazardous.

"Ice thickness can be really unpredictable and it's difficult to assess at times, so keep in mind that ice does not freeze in a uniform thickness and its strength can vary considerably from one area to another," he reminded. "A lot of people in this province love to get outside and enjoy some of the wintertime activities, but one of the things we highly recommend, this year particularly, is that you really need to be checking that ice thickness before you go on it."

He said as a guide, they recommend that you have at least four inches of ice to walk on, eight inches of ice to drive a snowmobile or an ATV, 12 inches for a car or light truck, and more than 12 inches to support a heavy truck. 

"So when looking at ice fishing this year, there's a lot of things to consider to be very safe out there," Boyle explained. "This year is certainly an increase for hazard as far as the ice goes, because we just really haven't had a lot of those temperatures that we would normally expect, into the minus 20s, 30s for this time of year." 

He said those sustained low temperatures are crucial for ensuring safety for activities on the ice. In fact, Boyle would recommend ice thickness be tested every time anyone goes out onto the ice due to the general unpredictability of frozen water bodies.

"You should always check those ice conditions, wherever you are, before you go out and venture onto the ice."

"In certain areas where you have water flowing, particularly in the river systems, and the Souris River and the reservoirs in the southeast do have some water movement happening, so what that means is that there is movement underneath that ice that is there. It's something to certainly be aware of because it can be quite serious and and very dangerous," he noted.

Boyle said depending on what activity you're doing and what equipment you're bringing onto the ice, you definitely want to check ice thickness, "particularly this year, because it can be quite dangerous."

He said he was recently in the Lake Diefenbaker area, where he was able to take note of open water in the main lake, which is not typical this time of year. In other water bodies in our province, there have even been reports of heating of ice during times when the temperatures were hovering around the zero mark.

"We really recommend that you avoid any ice that looks slushy, that's thawed and then frozen again, or is near that moving water that could be layered and cause a sudden temperature change or has some pressure ridges on it where the ice has risen up. So that's something really to look out for because those are those are indicative of a dangerous situation." 

Boyle offered tips for anyone who falls through the ice.

"Stay calm and try to reach out and kick your legs, and get into that horizontal position to crawl out," he said, noting emergency professionals would have more comprehensive advice. 

"But from our perspective, it's really, 'try not to even be in those situations'. We would recommend those guidelines and checking the ice before you go and knowing those conditions before you venture out onto the ice is one of those preventative measures that we could do to never be in that situation where we have to deal with one of those emergency situations where there's a truck or a TV or someone has gone through the ice into the water, because it can be quite serious and it's certainly a hazard to look out for."

He added it's important to know the area you're going, and to use due diligence to stay safe. 

Find the tips HERE.

ice thicknessImage courtesy of the WSA.

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