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January 05. 2013 8:53PM

Fish and Game says ice safety is 'marginal' across NH

Despite recent frigid temperatures, ice conditions across the state are marginal, Fish and Game Conservation Officer Lt. Craig Morrocco said in a news release.

Recent high winds and heavy snow loads have delayed the formation of solid ice in many locations. Thin ice and open water are present on many water bodies across the state, Morrocco said on the department's website.

Do not assume the ice is safe, he said, asking the public to observe the following guidelines before making heading out onto the ice:

-- It is not advisable to drive vehicles onto the ice.

-- If on foot, carefully assess ice safety before venturing out by using an ice chisel or auger to determine ice thickness and condition. Continue to do this as you get further out on to the ice, because the ice thickness will not be uniform all over the water body.

-- Though all ice is potentially dangerous, the U.S. Army Cold Regions Research & Engineering Laboratory in Hanover offers a "rule of thumb" on ice thickness: There should be a minimum of six inches of hard ice before individual foot travel, and eight to 10 inches of hard ice for snow machine or All-Terrain Vehicle travel.

-- Thick ice does not always mean safe ice. Ice can be thick, but not strong, because of varying weather conditions. Weak ice is formed when warming trends break down ice, then the slushy surface re-freezes.

-- Be especially careful of areas with current, such as inlets, outlets and spring holes, where the ice can be dangerously thin.

-- Stay off the ice along the shoreline if it is cracked or squishy. Don't go on the ice during thaws.

-- 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.

-- Don't gather in large groups or drive large vehicles onto the ice.

-- If you do break through the ice, don't panic. 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. Carry a set of ice picks; they can help you pull yourself out if you do fall through the ice; 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.


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