Despite a major snowstorm followed by a snow and ice storm last week, this season is a “no go” for ice skating and ice fishing and people should stay away from bodies of water that appear frozen, according to officials in several towns.
“This is a tough year to maintain four inches of ice,” said Ed Swicklas, with the City of Bristol Parks Department. “This time of year the sun is high and will melt the edges of a body of water. With everything snow covered it’s very hard to gage how thick the ice is.”
New Britain and Bristol officials warned people that the ice is too thin this year to consider going on to any bodies of water. Even allowing your dog to walk on the ice can be a problem, said New Britain Fire Chief Thomas Ronalter. “We don’t want to endanger anyone to rescue an animal,” Ronalter said. “So keep your animals off of the ice.”
Firefighters in Newington train annually to make cold water rescues and have their equipment ready, but so far they haven’t had to use it for an actual rescue, said Newington Fire Chief Chris Schroeder. The fire department has four cold water suits that firefighters don if they are going into a body of water to rescue someone. The department also has a sled that can go out onto the ice and allow firefighters to load a victim who has fallen through and pull them back to safety, Schroeder said.
The town only has two bodies of water that would allow for winter activities, Churchill Park and Mill Pond Park. Both are not frozen and there is no skating allowed, according to a Newington Parks and Recreation information hotline.
People should be very careful around bodies of water this time of year and call for help immediately if someone falls in,” Schroeder said. “Hypothermia sets in very quickly,” he said. “The ability to stay afloat and get out diminishes rapidly so get the call for help in as quickly as you can.”
During a cold winter, people can skate or ice fish at Pine Lake, Birge Pond, Page Park, Rockwell Park or Veterans Memorial Park in Bristol, but none of them are frozen enough for winter activities, Swicklas said. “People need to be careful, we haven’t had enough ice. Right now it’s just not feasible for this winter. Everyone should heed to that.”
The city of Bristol has in previous years put up a temporary ice skating rink that is only six inches deep, but with the drought conditions, the decision was made to scrap the plan for this winter, Swicklas said. “Put the skates away until next year,” he said.
Firefighters are trained to make cold water rescues but they have a more difficult time if someone is completely submerged under the ice and unable to be located, said Berlin Police Deputy Chief John Klett. The Berlin police dive team can go into the water and find the person, he said. But again the key is how quickly they are called. “They have to make it in a certain period of time, because even if the person is submerged, they still can be resuscitated,” Klett said.
The bottom line is that people should stay away from bodies of water this winter, Ronalter said. “We haven’t had the long spells of cold weather” he said. “It was pretty warm only a few weeks ago and we’re looking at temperatures in the 40s this week.”
Lisa Backus can be reached at 860-801-5066 or Lbackus@newbritainherald.com.
What to do if you fall through the ice
Don’t panic. Your body will immediately go into cold shock. Steady your breathing but work to get out of the water as you are in grave danger of quickly developing hypothermia.
Hypothermia occurs when your body temperature passes below 95 degrees. It can take as little as 10 minutes for hypothermia to set in, causing you to pass out.
Remove all heavy objects from your body like a backpack, skates, skis or shoes.
Place your body in a horizontal position and kick your legs, moving toward the edge of the ice.
Pull your upper body over the edge of the ice and kick your legs to push more of your upper body onto the top of the ice.
If you can’t get completely out of the water on your own, conserve energy by staying as still as possible until help arrives.
If you are able to get completely out of the water, do not stand up. Roll away from the edge of hole where you went into the water and toward shore, then retrace your steps until you reach land.