Cold Weather Doesn’t Necessarily Mean Safe Ice

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An incident on a central Wisconsin lake Thursday is prompting a warning about the dangers of taking heavy vehicles out on the ice.Conditions may not be as safe as they look.

An SUV broke through the ice on Pike Lake in Hatley and sank straight to the bottom, even though it was driven by an experienced fisherman after several days of cold weather. DNR conservation warden Ben Herzfeldt says the driver thought it would be safe, because other trucks were already on the lake.

“There were other vehicles on Pike Lake when this one went through,”he says.”You know, they just had a little bit bigger and heavier vehicle, and got a little bit off to one side and an accident happened.It’s good to exercise caution.Just because you see other people on the lake doesn’t mean it’s safe for you to be out there.”

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Herzfeldt says a number of factors can make ice unsafe:the depth of the water, a current, or an underlying weed bed.He says the recent heavy snowfall may also have been a factor.

“The snow acts as an insulator, so when you get a thicker layer of snow on that ice, even the colder temperature is going to have trouble making that good thick ice,” he says.”People, they’ll actually plow trails on it, get that snow off the ice, so that colder temperature can make thicker ice for those ice roads for people to drive on.”

Herzfeldt says Wisconsin lakes also got a late start freezingbecause of warm weather in November and December. Once a vehicle goes through the ice, a driver has 30 days to pull it out before facing serious fines.

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