People are cautioned to stay off the rivers and any areas where there is usually open water, until the ice is thicker, and the trails are officially opened.
Open waters, and recent frozen water near fast flowing areas on the Red and Assiniboine Rivers, especially near the pillars of bridges, has created hazardous situations and safety issues for all.
To date, there were no signs posting ice safety tips or the dangers of open water, even though this winter season has been warmer, creating higher risks of falling into open waters.
One would think signage would be posted in the areas where there is a risk of thin ice in all city parks, trails and along rivers. It would also be helpful if there were signs posted with information on how to detect thin ice and how to handle the situation if you or someone else fell in.
Chelsea Thomson, Manager of Marketing and Communications at The Forks, says that once the city provides The Forks with the permit to move forward, signs will be posted at the access points advising the public of the safety and conditions of the ice, with cautions for people to stay off thin ice.
The Forks is responsible for the area along their trail down the Assiniboine River to Assiniboine Park and along the Red River to Churchill Drive (weather permitting).
On their trail with open sections, signs will be erected indicating official access points, and also providing tips, events and program information.
The public is encouraged to use their access points for safety. Any other places outside the monitored areas is not the responsibility of The Forks. They measure the thickness of the ice and update this information on their site daily.
Thomson says people should use common sense and refer to their site, http://www.theforks.com/ to find information on sections that are open and closed in hopes people check those conditions before heading out onto the river.
“We are relying on the information from the police and the city,” says Thomson. “The police are cautioning everyone to stay away from the open water because of thin ice, so we are following their recommendations.”
Thomson said that in the past the Red River Mutual Trail has gone along the Assiniboine River past Omands Creek. However, due to fast moving water and river conditions, it has had to go further along the Red River. It remains to be seen how far the Trail will go this year along the Assiniboine River into the Wolseley area.
The one kilometre on-land skating trail, skating under the canopy and ice hockey rink at the Arctic Winter Galcier Park at The Forks, are the safest areas for skating at the moment.
Jason Small, a spokesperson for the Canadian Red Cross says, “Unless someone is absolutely sure the ice is thick enough, they should stay off of it.”
The city’s website http://winnipeg.ca/police/river_patrol/ last updated November 14, 2014, provides general information for Winnipeg ice conditions.
Included in this site is a video called, “Think Twice About Thin Ice”, also found on the Red Cross Manitoba site: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x30CRYdX0gA. This may prove helpful in educating your children and yourself on the risks of thin ice conditions.
The Canadian Red Cross also has some great tips on ice safety, how to gauge the colour of ice for thickness and how to protect yourself and others.
The Canadian Red Cross has given permission to print and download safety tips on how to spot the dangers so that you can teach yourself and your children how to be safe on ice: http://www.redcross.ca/crc/documents/Where-We-Work/Canada/Manitoba/safety-tips-on-and-around-ice-2014.pdf
Some life saving tips include:
If you see someone fall through the ice, call 911 immediately and yell for help.
Carry a long stick or branch; walk in pairs and do not panic if you or someone else falls through the ice.
Lie down flat and crawl across the ice on your stomach to see if there is any weakness. Pass the stick to the person in the water and bring them in slowly, keeping away from weakened ice where the person fell into the water. Let them grab onto the pole or a long branch.
Keep them close to you and warm them with your body heat to prevent hypothermia until professional help arrives.
If you fall into the ice, stay calm and do not grab onto the thin ice you fell into. Try to grab onto ice that is thicker; lie on your back and paddle backwards to the ice and stay afloat or crawl up as high as you can get onto the ice and let yourself freeze to the ice to keep afloat until help arrives.
Stay away from bridges as they have an undercurrent. Even though the ice may look thick, it may be pushing upward against the pillars and is usually grey in colour which is very unsafe.
Carrying a floatation device or an axe is handy; however, an axe in the city may be recognized as a weapon. It is best to speak to authorities on this one.
The following link depicts a real life situation that could have turned deadly. It shows how to save someone who has fallen through the ice and how to get help. In many circumstances the outcome is death.
In this video, the strangers risked their lives to save a child that had fallen through the ice. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XCt_fheEjU4
Though it looks fun and inviting to cross the river or play near the waters, keep in mind how quick things can take a turn for the worse in the beauty of nature if you are not paying attention to your safety and your environment around you.
For the safety of you and your loved ones, especially your children, it is best to go over ice safety rules and tips with them.
Areas of the city with ponds nestled in bushes blanketed in warm snow gives the illusion that the ice is frozen. It actually keeps the water warmer creating greater danger. Take every precaution to walk on the paths in pairs along each side of the river and across bridges unless otherwise noted.
You and your loved ones are worth it.
All photos by Marie LeBlanc