‘No ice is 100 percent safe’: Safety officials caution people about frozen waterways

ROCKY RIVER, Ohio -- While many people are suffering through the bitterly cold temperatures in Northeast Ohio, the frozen lakes, ponds and rivers are inviting for people who love winter games and sports.

But safety officials offer some potentially life-saving advice for people who try to venture onto frozen waterways.

FOX 8 found a group of young people playing an impromptu ice hockey tournament on the Rocky River.

"The series is tied right now, 2 to 2...best of seven," explained Spencer Asmar.

Young players strap on their ice skates and use the frozen river as a competitive ice rink.

"I got down here the other day, looked at the ice and it was real nice, so we hopped out on there, shoveled it off and it's perfect to play," said ice hockey player, Ian Moran.

"I've seen ice skating in the Rocky River for a long time since I've been here in my tenure; just always please be careful out there -- no ice is 100 percent safe," said Rocky River Fire Chief Aaron Lenart.

The ice hockey players say this has been a winter tradition their whole lives and many say their parents take precautions to make sure they're not literally skating on thin ice.

"My dad drills a hole and measures the thickness to make sure it's alright, but we have to make sure it's been really cold for a solid few days or at least two weeks, and it's been pretty cold, so the ice is definitely thick enough," said Sam Moran, who was ice skating and joined her brother and friends.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources reinforces that there is no such thing as safe ice. But they offer some guidelines:

  • There needs to be a minimum of four inches of new clear ice thickness to walk on it.
  • Five inches is the minimum for snowmobiles and ATVs.
  • And eight inches to a foot for cars or small trucks.

"If you're out there on that ice and you hear that ice crack, at that time, go down on your belly; spread out to distribute your weight; roll away from the crack; don't run on that ice when you hear it crack," said the fire chief.

"You can hear it, you can hear it crack under you and you're like, 'I don't want to go there,'" said Asmar.

“We've been here all our lives, so just know when it's right," said Ian Moran.

"Once again, no ice is 100 percent safe," reiterated the fire chief.

Ice fishing is also a popular sport when the lake gets frozen. The fire chief advises people who enjoy the sport to wear a flotation device, carry an ice pick with you, and if you go through the ice, don’t panic.

Lenart says hypothermia can set in within fifteen minutes.

*Continuing coverage on the winter weather.