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January 05. 2013 8:54PM

Winnipesaukee ice still unsafe


Signs warn of thin ice conditions off the Wolfeboro Town Docks, where it was open water Thursday for as far as the eye can see. (LARISSA MULKERN/Union Leader Correspondent)

LAKES REGION - Ice? What ice?

Veteran Lakes Region pilot David Emerson of Emerson Aviation flew over Lake Winnipesaukee Thursday morning and saw mostly open water on the state's biggest lake.

Only Paugus Bay appeared to be frozen over. So anyone thinking about setting out across the lakes on snowmobiles, snowshoes, or hauling the bobhouse for the season, may want to wait a while.

Emerson, who calls Ice-in and Ice-out every season, said the ice just started to form Wednesday, when he saw that Paugus Bay had frozen over.

"The rest of the big lake is wide open," he said, adding that current conditions are normal. Ice-in usually occurs the third week of January. He said that windy conditions move the water around making it harder for ice to form, even in frigid temperatures.

Local fire and safety officials are cautioning - if not urging - people to stay off the thin ice.

Alton's ready

Alton Fire Chief Scott Williams said on Thursday that ice had just formed on the shore to the mouth of Alton Bay.

"Conditions are terrible," he said. "My recommendation is 'don't trust the ice, whatsoever.'"

Ditto, from Tuftonboro Fire and Rescue Chief Adam Thompson, who deemed conditions unsafe at Tuftonboro's 19-Mile Bay, where many fisherman flock during ice fishing season.

Wolfeboro Fire Rescue Deputy Chief Tom Zotti said some spots appear to be iced over, but thickness is questionable. "The Broads are not frozen over. The water is still moving and the wind is blowing," creating bad conditions for ice formation.

Prepared to save lives

Local officials have not yet reported any mishaps recently, but if an emergency occurs on the lake during the winter - with or without ice - they are prepared.

Thompson said Tuftonboro has the cold water rescue suits as well as an 18-foot air boat that can travel over ice. Alton's department is equipped with snowmobiles, a Polaris Ranger all terrain vehicle, and rescue sleds.

Wolfeboro Fire Rescue department's equipment includes a boat, an inflatable canoe designed for on-water rescue with open sides, and a rescue sled with room for the patient and a care provider. Another new tool is an inflatable rescue device that can provide a platform on which to rescue someone in the water.

Wolfeboro Fire Rescue personnel are scheduled for ice and cold water rescue training on Jan. 19, said Zotti, who noted a second regional rescue training event will be held in Moultonborough in February.


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