Airdrie's Fire Chief is warning residents of the dangers of spring ice, as warm weather makes for unpredictable and unstable conditions.

"Please speak with your children about the dangers of playing on ice and keep those dogs safe as well! We train hard but the best response is not needing to suit up," the City's Fire Chief, Mike Pirie, posted on social media.

With daytime temperatures on Tuesday set to reach 16 degrees Celsius, coupled with nighttime lows of just below the freezing mark, the fluctuating temperatures make for hazardous conditions on ice surfaces with thawing and re-freezing cycles. 

In previous reminders to residents, Airdrie's Fire Department warned that one of the dangers is that ice seldom freezes uniformly.

"Ice will be thinner when it is formed over moving water, and where it surrounds partially submerged objects such as rocks or vegetation. Snow-covered ice and ice that has thawed and refrozen, is not as strong as new, clear hard ice."

The fire department also urges parents and guardians to make sure kids understand the potential dangers of spring ice, including discussing that danger.

"Always keep a pet on a leash. If a pet falls through the ice do not attempt a rescue – call 9-1-1 or go for help. This is a situation with high risk to anyone not trained or equipped to survive submersion in cold water," the department stated.

If one does fall through the ice, don’t try, and climb out immediately.

"Instead, turn back in the direction you came from. Reach forward onto the ice. Get horizontal, kick your feet, and try to slide back up onto the ice. Once out of the water crawl or roll away. Avoid standing until you are well clear of the weak ice."

The City of Airdrie has also reminded residents that many factors can affect ice thickness, especially in stormwater ponds. Factors include:

  • Fluctuating temperatures.
  • Depth and size of body of water.
  • Flowing water under the ice.
  • Chemicals like salt and silt from run-off are found in storm ponds, including water fluctuations.
  • Logs, rocks, and docks in the water absorb heat from the sun.

"...The surface may look solid, but stormwater flows underneath the surface due to snowfall, snowmelt, road clearing and salting operations."

The city added that runoff typically contains concentrations of salt and/or warmed water, which can quickly thin ice surfaces. There also may be sudden water level changes under the ice, resulting in unstable and unsafe conditions.

The Red Cross has also stated that the colour of ice may be an indication of its strength.

"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 grayness indicates the presence of water.

Ice thickness should be:

  • 15 centimetres for walking or skating alone.
  • 20 centimetres for skating parties or games.
  • 25 centimeters for snowmobiles.

Statistics Canada has reported that between April 1, 2011, and April 13, 2023, there were 1,109 drowning-related cases reported in CHIRPP (Canadian Hospitals Injury Reporting and Prevention Program). While most drownings happened during the spring and summer months, 200 cases were reported during the colder months of January, February March, November, and December. 

"Nearly one-fifth of all drownings occurred in natural bodies of water, including ponds, lakes and rivers. The majority of these cases involved infants and children aged nine years or younger."

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