Warm weather could threaten ice on rivers and lakes


With the warmer temperatures we’ve had and will continue to see in the forecast, ice could cause concerns in the coming weeks.

Maybe this is your 20th year venturing out on the ice or your first year, it never hurts to have a reminder of how thick ice needs to be to go out on the water. Anything less than two inches is a no-go. Keep off the ice because it’s too thin to hold a human. To walk out and ice fish, you’ll need at least four inches. To venture out with a snowmobile or an ATV, you’ll want five to six inches of thick ice.
For cars and small trucks, eight inches to at least a foot of ice is needed. For trucks, you’ll want over a foot of thick ice to venture out.

Ice doesn’t form at the same rate on all of the lakes and rivers. It depends on the size, the current, and air temperatures. So you’ll always wanna drill a hole to measure.
Beware of snow-covered ice. Snow can keep ice from forming below it or hide any cracks and weak spots. With daily temperature changes, ice will expand and contract which will inevitably leave weak spots.

Never drive on the ice at night or when it’s snowing. It’s easy to become disoriented and drive into areas of the lake you shouldn’t. Carry a safety kit so you can not only check the thickness of the ice but also be able to get yourself or others out if they fall in. That kit should include an ice chisel, an ice pick, and a fully charged cell phone to call for help if needed.

Another hazard can be ice jams. This usually happens on rivers when the temperatures warm… so they’re more prevalent with the spring thaw but we’ve seen them recently in the Bismarck-Mandan area. Warmer than normal temperatures has led to thinning ice and eventual breakups and jams.

They’re prevalent when warmer weather begins to break apart the ice… it then becomes ice floe – which is a large area of floating ice. Ice floe naturally will move downstream and can become lodged in tight or curved areas. This often happens in the Bismarck area near the University of Mary.
Once that happens, it can create river rises… rapid rises and falls are very common with ice jams. But one of the most important aspects of ice jams is that there is no model or prediction. They just have to be monitored.

More ice safety tips: https://gf.nd.gov/ice-safety

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