City police offer tips for safe play on North Bay’s frozen waterways

Tuesday, December 17, 2013   by: Kate Adams

North Bay Police Service

News Release


North Bay’s frozen waterways play a huge role in winter activities but sometimes we forget the danger factor.

Every year vehicles go through the ice, usually at the beginning and the end of the season.

The worst cases involve fatalities. The main reason is either poor judgement or lack of knowledge about the strength of the ice.

The strength of the ice can be based on the thickness and quality. 

Before going on any frozen waterway whether on foot or by vehicle you should know how to judge the strength and what facts you should be aware of.

The thickness of ice can be affected by a variety of factors.

  •    Water depth and size of the body of water.
  •    Currents, tides and other water movement.
  •    Fluctuations in water levels.
  •    Logs, rocks and docks absorbing heat from the sun.
  •    Changing air temperature.
  •    Chemicals in the water including salt.
  •    Shock waves from vehicles travelling on the ice.

The quality and colour of ice will also give an indication of strength. Clear blue ice is the strongest. A white opaque ice is half as strong as clear blue ice and grey ice should be considered unsafe.

The Canadian Red Cross recommends the following thicknesses of clear blue ice for specific activities.

  •  15 cm for walking or skating alone.
  •   20 cm for skating parties or games.
  •   25 cm for snowmobiles.

Ice thickness can vary by up to 5 cm (2in) in the same area under the same conditions and should be taken into consideration when decisions are made.

Other factors to be taken into consideration are pressure cracks, slush and open water. Each of these conditions presents their own unique hazards that should be researched before venturing onto the ice.

Some of the general safety rules to follow are:

  •   Know the thickness of the ice.
  •   Know the type or quality of the ice.
  •   Know if there are pressure cracks, slush or open water and their locations.
  •   Carry ice picks in a readily accessible pocket.
  •   Carry a compass in the event of whiteouts.
  •   Stay on designated trails or roads.
  •   Always let someone know where you are going and when you will be back. 

Winter activities on frozen water ways can be a lot of fun and an enjoyable experience but can turn bad when safety is not factored into your decisions.


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