Play it Safe in the Outdoors This Winter
The Forest Preserve District of DuPage County reminds residents to play it safe while enjoying ice fishing, snow tubing, cross-country skiing, and other winter activities.
As a guideline, there should be at least 4 inches of solid clear ice for one person and at least 8 inches for a group. Rangers do not monitor ice conditions in DuPage forest preserves, so visitors step onto the ice at their own risk.
“It’s always a good idea to carry a set of ice picks with you in case you fall through the ice,” Jones added.
Ice strength can be affected by wind, snow, rain, sunlight, water levels, underground springs, and temperature and can vary greatly over one body of water. Anyone venturing out on the ice should know the signs of dangerous conditions.
- Cracks, ridges or faults
- Different-colored ice, especially dark gray or black
- Ice that looks rotten or porous
- Ice covered by snow, water, or slush
- Running water or bubbles under the ice
“If you fall through the ice, turn toward the direction you came from because that’s probably the strongest ice,” Jones said. “Place your hands and arms on the unbroken surface, kick your feet, and try to pull yourself out using ice picks if you have them. Once you’re out of the water, lie flat on the ice and roll away from the hole. Get to a warm, dry, sheltered area as soon as possible, and call 911.”
Visitors should also take care to dress for the weather. Even mild temperatures can cause frostbite and hypothermia, two medical conditions that require treatment. Signs of hypothermia include shivering, exhaustion, confusion, slurred speech, and loss of motor skills. Signs of frostbite, which most frequently harms extremities like fingers, toes, ears, and noses, include numbness, a white or grayish-yellow skin color, or an unusual waxy feeling to the skin. Keep in mind that some people are more susceptible to the cold, particularly children, the elderly and those with circulation problems.
To help prevent injury, dress in layers with moisture-wicking underclothes and outer heat-retaining layers. Wool, silk, and synthetic fleece retain body heat better than cotton. Waterproof boots, thick socks, a hat, and gloves or mittens help keep extremities warm. A scarf, neck tube or face mask will keep your face warm and help cover as much exposed skin as possible. Traction cleats will keep you from slipping on icy trails.