Stay safe on lakes and ponds this winter

Posted at 6:28 PM, Jan 03, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-04 16:02:22-05

HELENA — A picture making the rounds on Helena area social media appears to show a side-by-side UTV that fell through the ice on Canyon Ferry. Emergency responders are urging caution when venturing on frozen lakes around the area.

With the subzero temperatures last month, it seemed pretty certain that lakes and ponds in the area had consistent, thick ice that was safe for activities such as ice fishing or skating.

But that frigid cold was temporary and was followed by a significant warm-up. One that created weak spots on the ice.

Debbie Blagg tells MTN she has seen the pictures going around and urges caution when getting on the ice.

"There is soft spots out there in the ice. If you look at the Facebook pages, you'll see that a couple of people have sank. There are four-wheelers out there. There's also a lot of pressure ridges hashtagged across the lake. Some of them are wider than others. I would not suggest trying to jump those," said Blagg.

Helena Fire Department practices ice and cold water rescues annually.

Chief Mike Chambers shares what people should look for if they plan to fish or skate on a frozen body of water.

"You need at least three inches of ice for one single person to walk on. Clear blue hard ice, don't congregate together, keep vehicles and people separated. If you think you have thick enough ice and just be really aware of your surroundings and changing conditions, whether it be through the day or through the week," said Chambers.

Conditions can change, especially near the shoreline, and Chambers says people should always be prepared when on the ice.

"You still want to have warm clothes, you want to have a life jacket, you want to have a means of communication, whether it be radio or cell phone," said Chambers, "And it's always good to use the buddy system as well."