A mild winter makes for thin ice: Know how to help yourself if you fall through


OSWEGO, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — Our mild winter and fluctuating temperatures have brought on an uptick of water rescues.

A Canastota snowmobile towing company, Triple T Towing and Underwater Recovery says this has been their busiest year yet. Just this past weekend, the crew pulled two ATVs from the water in less than 24 hours.

The weak ice is keeping rescue teams busy too.

“We haven’t had good, cold snaps that have really frozen the water up solid,” said Captain Drew Montalbano with the Oswego Fire Department.

The ice may look firm but it can be deceiving.

“A lot of it comes down to awareness of what safer ice is and what they need to be aware of. We say, ‘there’s no guaranteed safe ice, there’s safer ice,’” said Montalbano.

So what should you do if you fall in? NewsChannel 9’s Nicole Sommavilla suited up with the Oswego Fire Department to find out.

It’s easy to panic once you fall in, especially in water that is 35 degrees.

“Your first reaction is going to be to gasp and hyperventilate,” said Montalbano.

Instead, Montalbano says you should try to remain calm.

“Turn to the direction that you’re coming from because you know that’s where the ice was solid,” he said.

The next step is to get your arms up on top of the ice.

“Crawl with your arms on the ice, kick to try to get up and on top, and once you get on the ice a little bit try to roll to more solid ice,” said Montalbano.

For ice recreation, there is an ice pick you can buy and keep in your jacket or around your neck.

“You can take that [ice pick] and drive it into the ice so you can really pull yourself up,” said Montalbano. “A lot of ice fishermen use these and they actually make them where they snap together and you wear them around your neck.”

Montalbano suggests investing in a winter float jacket with buoyancy built in. There’s also a full suit option.

“Which are specifically designed for ice sportsman, people that are ice fishing. It’s a whole one-piece suit that has inherent buoyancy,” said Montalbano.

Montalbano says one of the most important things to do before you head out on the ice is to check and make sure it’s strong enough to hold you.

Montalbano suggests avoiding discolored ice and talking with locals who know the area on the lake.

“Ice that has water moving underneath it will inherently be weaker,” he said.

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