Be Careful of Thin Ice
By Curt “CJ” Johnson
We're coming into the time of year when we start hearing reports that children have fallen through thin ice on some waterway. Sometimes these reports are tragic. In most cases they could have been avoided with some stern directions to youngsters or common sense by older individuals.
I'm a parent so don't think I'm living in a glass house and throwing stones when I say, "parents need to caution their children to stay off water bodies that now have a thin coating of ice". Ice is NEVER completely safe and the early skim ice we are starting to see in some areas of Minnesota at this time is certainly not safe at all.
Even in the northern part of the state there is no ice that is consistently four inches, the minimum thickness experts recommend for walking on. Ice safety guidelines also recommend a minimum of five inches of new, clear ice for snowmobiles and eight to 12 inches for a small to medium-sized automobile, pickup or SUV.
During the early winter holidays, when parents send the kids outside to play while meals are being prepared and presents being wrapped, they should make a point to warn the kids in no uncertain terms to stay away from any frozen water bodies around the home. Kids are attracted to ice like a magnet. They just don't have the knowledge of how much ice it takes to support a person nor the understanding of what is or isn't safe.
It seems like it should be common sense, but a reminder to busy, holiday-stressed adults seems quite necessary each year as the ice season gets underway. Danger to children and potential drowning is as close as the frozen pond or stream near their house if youngsters aren't carefully supervised.
In fact the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) recommends that children not go out on the ice without adult supervision, even when winter ice conditions improve. If you're visiting away from home and there is water nearby, check with a local bait shop or resort about local ice conditions.
The winter holidays are normally a time of family and friends, good cheer and holiday songs and reflecting and appreciating what we have. Let's do all we can to keep this focus.
One way we can work to achieve this atmosphere is to make sure we keep our loved ones (especially youngsters) safe and aware of the dangers of walking on thin ice. There will be plenty of time to skate and run and fish on the ice when it is more fully formed and of a more safe thickness (reminder: ice is NEVER completely safe) as our winter wonderland progresses.
Winter in Minnesota's outdoors can provide us with a multitude of great experiences. And, if we plan and we're thoughtful on how we approach each of these interesting adventures, we can have a safe and fun experience.
I already have my mittens, snowmobile suit and boots out of the back of the closet and ready for Minnesota to GO WHITE!!!