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Weather yo-yoing in Winnipeg, Lifesaving Society Manitoba urges caution on ice

After a cold blast, Winnipeg is starting to thaw. Again.

Terri Lang, a meteorologist with Environment and Climate Change Canada, says temperatures around 8 C and 10 C are expected to arrive next week — well above the average of -12 C.

This follows what she said were below-average temperatures earlier this month, which were preceded by the third-warmest December on record for the city.

She said not to get too attached to the warmer weather.

“We still have to get through February, and we know that can be one of the coldest months,” she said. “The forecast is showing above-average temperatures, but that doesn’t mean it won’t get cold.”

Lang said most of Western Canada will watch their thermometers climb in continued El Niño conditions.

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“Places like Calgary will probably reach into that, at least above plus-10, if not into the middle teens, above zero,” she said. “Edmonton also. That will also start creeping into Saskatchewan again.”

Christopher Love with Lifesaving Society Manitoba said as the weather gets warmer, be extra cautious on the ice. He says ice formation has already been spotty this year as the weather yo-yos.

“It’s never 100 per cent safe to go out on the ice. So, we advise everyone, if you’re going to go on the ice, then you need to be prepared to go through the ice and into cold water,” he said, saying one-third of drownings in Manitoba happen between October and April.

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The key to staying safe, he said, is never going out alone.

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“Make sure you’ve got a friend, a family member with you. So, if one of you gets into trouble, the other can help,” Love said.

There are some things to watch out for to help determine whether ice is safe or not, he said, reminding that “you can never tell just by looking at the ice whether it’s going to be safe or not.”

However, he said there are some visible signs that the ice may not be safe.

“If you’re starting to see slush on the surface of the ice or puddles on the surface of the ice, those are danger signs,” he said.

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Ice colour also matters. Clear, blackish, bluish and greenish ice are all good signs, he said, but greyish or yellowish are signs it could be deteriorating. White-looking ice could go either way.

“Our recommendation is a minimum of 10 centimetres, or four inches, for people to be able to go out on the ice, to do things like walking, skating, (and) ice fishing,” Love said.

‘Our recommendation is a minimum of 10 centimetres, or four inches, for people to be able to go out on the ice, to do things like walking, skating, (and) ice fishing,’ Love said. Credit: Lifesaving Society Manitoba

If venturing away from supervised ice surfaces, like skating ponds and city parks that are checked on a daily basis, Love recommended taking additional safety measures.

“Make sure you are wearing something that is going to make you float,” he said, suggesting a life-jacket over winter clothing, or “what are called floater coats, or flotation snowmobile suits, which are essentially a winter jacket that can function as a life-jacket.”

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He also said to come prepared with gear like ice picks, rope and supplies to make a fire. He said having a waterproof device to make emergency calls may also come in handy.

Lang said not to get too comfortable with driving conditions either.

“Especially when it does get mild, we tend to get those freeze-thaw cycles, which is horrible for the pavement, but it’s also bad for driving, just because we get black ice in the overnight periods, and then it melts and then it refreezes,” she said.

To help mitigate any difficulties on the road, she said to keep winter driving skills top of mind, and “check highway conditions before heading out.”

Love says for information on staying safe over these wacky winter weeks, go to the winter and ice safety page at lifesavingsociety.mb.ca.

Click to play video: 'Safety is key while snowmobiling in Manitoba: Snoman'

Safety is key while snowmobiling in Manitoba: Snoman

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