Preach. Reach. Throw. Go.

That’s what the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife advises when someone falls through the ice.

When an arctic blast blows into Oklahoma, however, the mantra can be shortened to just two words: Keep Off!

Sure, we experience single digit and even sub-zero temperatures. But not season-long winter. The kind where you don’t see the ground for weeks or even months.

And therein lies the problem with iced over ponds and the like.

The fact is it takes prolonged freezing temperatures (think two or three weeks minimum) for a solid sheet of ice to form on ponds or lakes. 

And even then, inviting as it appears to sledders and skaters, it could pose a thinly veiled death trap for trespassers.

After all, there are no guarantees where ice is concerned.

“Always consider ice to be potentially dangerous,” the Massachusetts department advises. “You can’t judge ice conditions by appearance or thickness alone; many other factors like water depth, size of water body, water chemistry, currents, snow cover, age of ice, and local weather conditions impact ice strength.”

The strongest ice is clear, blue and new. Remember, temperature fluctuations and a cycle of thawing and re-freezing weaken the ice’s integrity.

Use an auger or cordless drill to test thickness.

A good rule of thumb is:

2 inches or less – STAY OFF!

4 inches – Ice fishing or other activities on foot

5 inches – Snowmobile or ATV

8-12 inches – Car or small pickup truck

12-15 inches – Medium truck

Beware ice that is white. It is on average only half as strong as new clear ice. Likewise, avoid ice with visible air bubbles and cracks.

Still determined to try out a set of ice skates?

Before you go, let someone know your plans, including where you are going and when you expect to return.

Carry a cell phone with you and wear a life jacket when you venture onto the ice

Should the ice break, the life jacket is that much more insulation against the water’s numbing cold.

If the worst happens and you find yourself in the water, it’s important to call for help and not panic.

Try to retrace your path onto the ice. Extend your arms on the unbroken ice, kicking with your legs to “beach’ your torso. 

Lie flat and roll away from the open water and toward firm ice.

Once on shore, find some shelter and get warm. Seek medical attention.

If you see someone else fall through the ice, act on “Preach-Reach-Throw-Go.”

  • Preach –  Call 911 if you can. Reassure the victim help is on the way.
  • Reach – If you can safely reach them from shore, extend an object like a rope, jumper cables, tree branch, or ladder to them.
  • Throw – Toss a rope or something that will float to the victim.
  • Go – In dangerous situations, seek help. Because the fact is untrained rescuers can become victims themselves.

And remember this, in Oklahoma, no matter how much TV weathermen toss around  phrases like “Arctic Express” and polar vortex, it isn’t likely to get cold enough for long enough to make pond ice safe to play on.

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