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Canadians warned to stay off ice


Staff writers
March 12, 2013 — As we inch closer to the official start of spring, officials are warning Canadians to stay off the ice.


Canadians urged to stay off the ice at this time of year
Canadians urged to stay off the ice at this time of year

On Monday, the Canadian Red Cross staged a rescue scenario on Manitoba's Red River to help promote ice safety awareness as the spring season draws closer. 

"We're going out to the schools that are close to these retention ponds and close to rivers and spreading the word to stay off the ice at this time of year," says Shawn Feely with the Canadian Red Cross. 

Officials say while the ice may appear to look stable, rising temperatures could have an impact on the thickness. 

"There's going to be unseen risks. We don't know what the water underneath is going to do to the thickness of the ice. It's eroding it, the currents are doing different things, so parents, teachers, look out for one another and tell people it's time to stay off the ice," Feely adds.

"Professor Popsicle" was pulled from the water during Monday's thin ice demonstration
"Professor Popsicle" was pulled from the water during Monday's thin ice demonstration

Dr. Gordon Giesbrecht, who goes by the nickname "Professor Popsicle" at the University of Manitoba, demonstrated two different scenarios where someone could get caught off guard and fall through the ice.

"Professor Popsicle" was prepared with a dry suit and also had Winnipeg police and firefighters on hand. An unlikely advantage if you're out on your own and involved in winter activities like ice fishing or hockey.

"So we tell people, first of all stay off the thin ice, but if you do end up in the ice water, don't panic and get your breathing under control," says Giesbrecht. 

He adds that it's important to try and pull yourself to safety rather than lifting yourself out of the water. 

"We call it kick and pull. Put your arms on the ice and kick your feet and the back of your body will come up and it will be parallel with the surface of the water. Then all you do is pull and kick like crazy and you'll pull yourself along the ice instead of trying to lift yourself up."

The Canadian Red Cross offers these tips for determining the strength of the ice based on colour:

  • Clear blue ice is strongest. 
  • White opaque or snow ice is half as strong as blue ice. Opaque ice is formed by wet snow freezing on the ice. 
  • Grey ice is unsafe. The greyness indicates the presence of water.

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