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Don’t end up on thin ice

Taking ride brisk morning Hampshire Forest Preserve off Allen Road snowmobilers Pete Dall (front back) Sun-Times Mediwriter Mike Danahey Pete's

Taking a ride on a brisk morning at the Hampshire Forest Preserve off of Allen Road, snowmobilers Pete Dall (front to back), Sun-Times Media writer Mike Danahey, and Pete's father Jim Dall carve there way on the snow covered trails. February 10, 2011 | Michael Smart~Sun-Times Media

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Ice Danger signs

When checking ice, you should look for these indicators of dangerous conditions:

Cracks, ridges or faults

Differently colored ice, especially dark gray or black

Open water in the center of an otherwise frozen lake

Ice that looks rotten or porous

Ice covered by snow, water or slush

Running water or bubbles
visible under the ice

Updated: February 3, 2013 6:12AM



Winter offers many recreational activities — from ice fishing and snow tubing to cross-country skiing and snowmobiling.

The Forest Preserve District of DuPage County reminds outdoor adventurers to employ safety precautions unique to the season.

“Ice is building up on local lakes, so whether visitors are fishing or walking along the shore, they should always use caution,” John Roschay, an assistant manager and longtime district ranger, said in a release.

Most ice activities, including ice fishing and ice skating, require at least four inches of clear ice, officials said.

And the Fox Valley has seen its share of tragedies and near-tragedies when people ventured out onto unsafe ice.

In January 2009, fire department divers recovered the body of a 26-year-old Algonquin man who fell through the ice into the Fox River while snowmobiling in the Haegers Bend area of McHenry County.

This past February, a 43-year-old man riding a bicycle fell through the ice of a Streamwood detention pond but was rescued by village police and firefighters.

When visiting forest preserves, all ice-related activities are done at the visitor’s own risk, according to the DuPage district. Rangers do not monitor ice conditions, which can vary greatly on a body of water.

As Roschay explains, “A lake with ice several inches thick in one spot may have very thin ice in another spot, so it’s important to check conditions continually. Visitors should never assume that any ice is completely safe.”

Wind, snow, rain, sunlight, water levels, underground springs and variations in temperature are just some of the factors that affect ice strength. When checking ice, the district says you should look for these indicators of dangerous conditions:

Cracks, ridges or faults

Differently colored ice, especially dark gray or black

Open water in the center of an otherwise frozen lake

Ice that looks rotten or porous

Ice covered by snow, water or slush

Running water or bubbles visible under the ice

Rivers and streams, including the Fox, can be dangerous because of the constant current which makes it difficult for water to freeze other than at the surface.

Cold dangers

Hypothermia and frostbite are also serious seasonal dangers. When engaging in any winter activity, protect yourself from the cold by dressing in warm layers and staying dry, officials advise.

Wear an outer layer that blocks wind and moisture and an insulating inner layer that traps heat and wicks away perspiration. Wool, silk and synthetic fleece retain body heat better than cotton for winter clothing. Waterproof boots, thick socks, a hat and gloves or mittens help to keep extremities warm.

“Bundling up against extreme cold might seem like simple common sense, but it’s important to protect yourself in mild winter weather, too,” Roschay said. “Hypothermia can develop even with air temperatures above freezing, especially if you are chilled by wet clothing or sweat.”

Signs of hypothermia include shivering, exhaustion, confusion, slurred speech and loss of motor skills.

Signs of frostbite, which most frequently harms extremities like fingers, toes, ears and noses, include numbness, a white or grayish-yellow skin color or an unusual or waxy feeling to the skin.

Seek medical attention to treat any of these conditions.

Roschay also notes that visitors should be sure to inform others of where they are going and when they will be back.

“Of course, the best safety practice is to experience the outdoors with another person so that you are not alone in case of an emergency,” he said.

In any outdoor emergency, call 911 for help. To reach DuPage Forest Preserve District police, call 630-933-7240.

For more information, visit dupageforest.org.



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