December weather, with some nights in the single digits and alternating days of rain, snow, wind, bright sunlight and wide ranging temperatures, has created varying ice conditions across the state. MassWildlife reminds outdoor enthusiasts including ice fishermen, cross-country skiers, snowshoers, snowmobilers and hikers to always exercise caution when venturing on or across ice covered waters.
Test the ice frequently as the thickness may vary in areas exposed to the sun, wind, or underwater currents and springs. Clear, blue ice on lakes and ponds is the strongest with a minimum of two inches needed to support a single person. Five inches of clear, blue ice will support a group of people. Ice strength drops significantly, however, if water is flowing underneath or if the ice is permeated with slush or snow. Honeycombed ice, which is created as the surface ice melts, is the most dangerous and should be avoided unless a safe layer of solid ice is found below.
If you do end up in the water, don't panic. Call for help and then extend your arms and kick your legs to help pull your body back up. Act quickly as the air trapped in your winter clothing will initially help keep you buoyant. Roll or crawl away from open water in the direction of the ice that supported your weight before. Get to the nearest source of heat and shelter as quickly as possible to prevent hypothermia.
For an ice strength table visit the MassWildlife website at www.MassWildlife.org.
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