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February 11. 2013 8:08PM

Lakes Region fire chiefs warn of cars, trucks on ice

CENTER HARBOR - After four incidents of vehicles going through the ice of Lake Winnipesaukee over the weekend, fire chiefs in the Lakes Region are urging drivers of cars and trucks to stay off the ice.

No one was injured in the incidents, but with water temperatures in the mid-30s and a strong but vulnerable layer of ice on the lakes, the potential for serious and deadly incidents is there.

"This winter, with all of the off and on weather we've had, cars and trucks probably should not be on the ice," said Center Harbor Fire Chief John Schlemmer. "I get nervous when I see people driving out there."

"The risk versus the benefit is not worth it," said Gilford Fire Chief Stephen Carrier.

At 5:30 p.m. Friday, a truck fell through the ice in Center Harbor Bay about 150 feet from the town docks in about 10 feet of water, Schlemmer said. The occupants were removed quickly by fire crews, who go on foot or by ATV to ice rescues.

Late Saturday afternoon, a truck fell through the ice of Big Squam Lake near a small island, but when firefighters arrived, the driver had left the scene.

Drivers are responsible for the removal of vehicles through the ice. The vehicle in Center Harbor had to removed quickly, he said, because if the ice fishing derby. Schlemmer wasn't sure if the vehicle had been removed from Squam Lake yet.

"For all I know that truck is still there," Schlemmer said.

There were also two snowmobiles that went through the ice Sunday in Center Harbor and in Gilford, neither of which caused any injuries as both were near shore, authorities said.

Snowmobiling on the ice is probably safe, but cars and trucks are probably not safe, Schlemmer said. Along the shoreline of almost every bay and inlet are aquatherms, underwater heaters that keep docks and shoreline installations safe from winter ice but leave areas of open water around them.

There are also rocks popping up through the ice in many spots, which create another obstacle for drivers. "The rocks catch the sun and warm up," Carrier said.

A recent problem was the Nor'easter last week, which left areas of soft ice covered and not visible to drivers, Carrier said.

"There are also a lot of pressure ridges out there, ice runs together and makes ridges that rise, which can be hard to see," he said.

dseufert@newstote.com

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