January can be our best month for lake ice so thick you can stand on it. The first month of the year we often have sub-zero temperatures, down to -20C. The lake surfaces become ice over a foot thick.
Experts say the ice must be at least 4″/10cm before it is safe to walk on.
Like marriage, ice walking is not to be undertaken unadvisedly or lightly.
Our weather has been “warm,” only 3C, not below zero many days. To my midwestern woman’s eye, the ice in these pictures did not look safe, because of the puddle areas which are evidence of warming. There were a dozen people skating, walking their dogs and strolling on the ice. However, the mouth of the Yahara River which empties into the lake 50 meters away was not frozen, an open water channel wove 20m by 5m through the lake ice there. This area would not be my first choice for an afternoon on the perhaps frozen lake.
I very much err on the side of caution. In November 2022, a friend went ice fishing (too early) and went through the ice. He was lucky enough a paramedic was fishing nearby and rescued him. Going through the ice is not the worst part. Although it’s scary and the water is darn cold, it’s hypothermia that can be deadly. When the body’s core temperature goes under 35C (95F), you’ll need to warm up quickly or within minutes your life is at risk.
When in doubt:
-drill to check ice thickness
-walk with a friend
-wait until the ice is thicker
I fell through the ice of a creek when I was 12. Since only one lower leg got wet and my friend’s house was nearby, I was lucky and I did not get hypothermia that day.
Have you experienced hypothermia or at the other end of the spectrum, heat stroke?