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‘Unsteady’ ice conditions leading city to warn Winnipeggers to stay away

Spring is here, and with warmer temperatures on the horizon, the City of Winnipeg is warning residents to stay off the ice while waterways are melting.

In a news release, the city said as temperatures get warmer, ice melts during the day, and then freezes at night, creating what it calls, “an unsteady ice surface.”

Lorne Edwards, media coordinator at Lifesaving Society Manitoba, said it’s a particularly vulnerable time for ice conditions.

“Because of this transitional weather… we agree completely that the safe thing to do is to stay off the ice entirely, especially when it comes to the riverways and ponds in the city of Winnipeg,” said Edwards.

Even if rivers and retention ponds appear to have a solid ice cover, the city noted it doesn’t make conditions automatically safe.

“There’s a lot going on underneath the ice that people can’t see. It’s an extremely dangerous hidden hazard,” the city said in a news release.

The society noted there is also a current underneath the already weakened ice.

“It’s been a very strange winter in that we’ve had freeze, thaw, freeze, thaw. So the ice has been tricky this winter in a best-case scenario. But right now, in particular, there is a great risk of it being in a weakened condition. And we certainly know that fluctuating temperatures can cause cracks in the ice as well to appear where you might not expect it,” said Edwards.

The society also warns there’s more to evaluating ice safety than just measuring ice thickness.

“Sometimes you’ll see slush on the ice, stay away from that, sometimes you’ll see open holes of water on the ice, obviously, you want to stay away from that.”

The organization recommends anyone who goes near ice this spring to, “wear either an inflatable PFG or a full on life jacket, because it will save you the energy, it’ll keep you above the water,” and to never go by yourself.

The city says the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service (WFPS) has been training all winter for emergency rescue situations.

“Our first responders are prepared to help you if you get stuck on the ice or fall in,” said Matt Rollason, WFPS Water & Ice Rescue Coordinator. “But we hope you’ll staff of waterways so we don’t have to.”

According to the city, each year the WFPS responds to over 150 calls for people needing help on rivers, waterways, and swimming pools.

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