Cold weather freezing local ponds, but most aren’t safe to walk on yet


KANSAS CITY, Mo. — With the extended cold and subzero wind chills, you or your kids might be wondering if it’s safe to go out on an icy-looking pond. 

Though many area ponds and other bodies of water look frozen, there’s a lot you need to know before you should even consider going out on the ice. 

Brian Meinershagen will be on the ice and perhaps in the water Saturday. But as he and his team of volunteers with Lee’s Summit Underwater Rescue and Recovery brave the bitter cold temperatures to recover a vehicle that went in the water, they’ll be prepared.

“We’re in our ice gear; we have sleds and spikes where, if we had to, we can traverse across the ice to make a rescue of someone who had fallen in. Hopefully without breaking the ice ourselves but we’d be prepared if we did,” Meinershagen explained. 

They’ll take chainsaws with them in case the ice is thick in spots because of the extended freezing temperatures. 

“We’re staying below freezing the whole time so the water has an ability to continuously freeze up and thicken up the ice at a much quicker rate than if we’d be 35 in the afternoon and 20 degrees at night,” FOX4 meteorologist Joe Lauria said. 

But even as the ice thickens, streams entering still water or underwater springs can produce weak spots. Snow on the ice can insulate and slow that freezing as does deeper water.

Ice has to be a minimum of 4 inches thick to hold body weight. Lauria predicts that could happen in some spots by mid to late next week. Ice fishers are accustomed to testing that thickness.

“That’s probably the safest way. Drill a hole in the ice with a home drill if possible and see how much ice is there,” Lauria said.

But again, remember: Going on the ice always carries risk, and if any part of your body goes into that 30-something degree water, it’s going to cause you to respond in ways you probably aren’t prepared for.

Meinershagen offered this advice from experience for people if they find themselves in that unfortunate situation.

“The most important thing to do is think. The intention is going to be paddle and try to get back on top of the ice, but really you want to spread out and have your body weight spread across as much of the ice as possible,” he said.

If you are with someone who falls through the ice, first call 911 and then try to help them from land if possible by reaching to them or throwing something to them to try to pull themselves out. 

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