February 12, 2014 —
Ice is interesting and beautiful, as Scott Rando showed us in last week’s River Talk column. Ice can also be deadly, if not approached with respect.
For those who enjoy outdoor recreational activities such as ice fishing and cross-country skiing, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission has helpful guidelines on ice safety. In general, ice thickness of at least three inches can support one cross country skier; four inches is necessary for a person and gear totaling 200 pounds. Five inches should support 800 pounds (or one snowmobile). Less than three inches is considered unsafe.
Bear in mind that ice thickness varies by location, with thinning occurring near protrusions such as brush, logs and docks. Avoid areas of moving water and multiple pressure cracks.
Always fish with others. This can mean the difference between life and death should you fall through the ice. Wear a lifejacket for the same reason. It will keep you afloat and provide some insulation during the critical moments following a plunge. Consider wearing ice picks, which are handheld spikes that can be used to pull yourself out of the water if needed.
Ice is highly variable both in how it forms as well as how it ages. Due to unusual ice formations along the Delaware River this season, the Skinners Falls River Access has been temporarily closed. Massive ice shelves that formed earlier this season have created tall uneven ledges along the river. Sandwiched between those structures, the river flows beneath a lower layer of ice chunks. Although appearing solid, the unpredictability of this temporary ice landscape is fraught with danger.