Experts urging for caution around frozen waterways

Emergency officials and leaders with the province’s largest snowmobile group are advising extra caution around the province’s waterways, as it’s possible a warm start to the season has created unpredictability on the ice. @_MorganModjeski reports.

By Morgan Modjeski

Emergency responders are issuing caution around local waterways as temperatures drop. Manitoba’s largest snowmobile association says if you’re already set to hit the trails, you should avoid the ice.

“The message to snowmobilers is to stay away from waterways, stay away from any ice. It isn’t safe at this point in the season,” said Yvonne Rideout, executive director of the Snowmobilers of Manitoba.

“There’s thin ice, we know in some areas and when that’s covered by snow, there’s the insulation, which ends up melting the ice.”

Rideout says there needs to be at least five inches of clear ice in order to support a snowmobile and while going through the ice is uncommon, it does happen.

“We don’t hear about it a lot, but when we do, we always say make sure the ice is safe before you venture on it, and also, travel with a friend,” said Rideout.

Last week the City of Winnipeg issued a warning that ice surfaces on urban waterways are thin and fragile. Advising teachers and parents to speak to children about the dangers of thin ice and for dog owners asked to keep animals leashed and away from the surfaces.

At this time, emergency officials say all bodies of water should be considered unsafe.

Earlier in this month a 70-year-old man went missing in an ice fishing area near Fairford, Manitoba and was found deceased in an area of thin ice.

“It’s a tragedy when you’ve got someone who is enjoying his passion — year after year — for 50+ plus years. He’s got his favourite spot, he heads out there, I don’t know how many times he’d go out, but I’m sure it’s quite frequently for the ice fishing, so it’s a tragic loss for the community,” explained RCMP Sgt. Paul Manaigre

Manaigre says right now, due to the weather patterns, it’s possible certain areas are not following their usual freeze cycle.

“Everything was late this year. A late spring melt. A late summer arrival. A late fall … So we’re getting into a late winter start, which means normally by this time last year, he was probably out ice fishin on a foot-think of ice, but this year, because it’s warmer longer, that ice has only started to freeze.”

RCMP say the death is not considered criminal in nature and continues to investigate.

Rideout says those who are planning to explore the province’s waterways as temperatures drop should reach out to a member of Snowmobilers Manitoba, as they’ll be able to help provide information on ice thickness and other safety hazards in the area.

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