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Despite frigid weekend temps, a lot of ice in NH is still dangerous. Here’s how to be safe.

A sign warns of thin ice on a pond in Concord, NH on February 13, 2023.
Mara Hoplamazian / NHPR
A sign warns of thin ice on a pond in Concord, NH on February 13, 2023.

Despite freezing temperatures this weekend, New Hampshire officials are urging caution for anyone venturing onto ice across the state.

Cpt. Michael Eastman, with New Hampshire Fish and Game, said though the cold weekend helped create some ice, in many areas it’s still not safe, especially on larger bodies of water.

“We really haven't had the cold weather required to freeze those areas,” he said. “And then we've had a lot of wind with the storms that we've had the last couple of weeks.”

On Lake Winnipesaukee, this year has been a strange one, said David Emerson, the head of Emerson Aviation. He’s been keeping track of ice-in dates, when the lake is totally frozen, since 1979.

“To see ice just beginning to form the third week of January – that's like, unheard of. I mean, I'll be honest, I'm not sure we're going to have ice-in this year,” he said.

The only other year Emerson knows of without an ice-in was 2001.

And ice-out dates, when the lake ice is melted in spring, are happeningearlier. Winters in New Hampshire are warming up as the burning of fossil fuels continues to heat up the atmosphere and cause the climate to change.

Staying safe on the ice

Eastman, with Fish and Game, says people who do want to venture onto the ice should use an ice chisel and make test holes to see how thick it is. They should also make sure other people know where they’re going and when they plan to return.

If someone ends up falling in, Eastman said, they should get their arms onto the edge of the ice and kick their legs to help get themself out of the water. Wearing ice picks can also help with getting out.

All ice is potentially dangerous, New Hampshire Fish and Game says, but the U.S. Army Cold Regions Research & Engineering Laboratory suggests 6 inches of hard ice as the minimum for foot travel, and eight to ten inches of hard ice for snow machines.

Areas with currents, like inlets or outlets, can have particularly thin ice.

For more information on ice safety, visit the New Hampshire Fish and Game website.

Mara Hoplamazian reports on climate change, energy, and the environment for NHPR.
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