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When are frozen ponds and lakes safe to walk on?

In the wake of this extreme cold, many people are attempting to get out and enjoy this winter weather. When it comes to ice skating and fishing on ponds and lakes, there’s special considerations you need to make before heading out on the ice.

While it can be tempting to want to break out the skates and hockey gear the second ice forms on your local pond, that ice can be deceiving. Lakes freeze from the top down as ice will float on any liquid water. Even though the top of the water may look frozen, it may just be a thin layer of ice. The best way to check if it is safe to go out on the frozen water is to take a sample of the ice thickness. Typically, four inches of ice is the minimum thickness needed to hold a person’s weight. That being said, one part of a lake may have thicker ice due to the currents of the lake or whether it has been windy or snowy. If there are any cracks, branches, or bubbles poking through the ice surface, that means that the strength of that ice layer will have been compromised. You can also quickly judge the strength of ice by its color; darker blues and blacks normally indicate stronger ice than a lighter white color.

Any time you are out on the ice, you should make sure you have rescue gear nearby in the event it breaks below you. If the ice is too thin, you can always stick to old fashioned sledding.

Insider Blog / Weather / Weather Video
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Maddie Est

Maddie Est appears on ABC 17’s weekend evening broadcasts. She grew up in St. Louis, and her passion for weather originated from a young age thanks to all the different weather that St. Louis receives. She is currently studying Atmospheric Science at the University of Missouri.

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