With temperatures significantly warming up in the Okanagan, officials are warning that ice activities on local lakes could be unsafe.
“Right now, we’re in a really weird transition, we came out of a really good cold snap where we had -20 to -25 C,” said Captain Shawn Wudrich of the Kelowna Fire Department.
“What we have then is a clear ice developing, so when we don’t have snow on the water or on ice, we get this really nice clear ice that is stable and strong, but now we’ve moved into this weather pattern with snow on top of it.”
According to Wudrich, snow and water covering the ice are signs of dangerous conditions.
“When we can’t see the ice, it becomes a danger. Snow can insulate and add weight to the ice. What we have going on now, with our temperatures getting above zero during the day, that weight of that snow, and the deteriorating temperatures, we’re going to have water getting on top with slush and more weight on the ice,” said Wudrich.
“So right now, we’re in a really unstable pattern for being on the ice.”
Ice activities like skating or fishing on the lake are especially not recommended on larger bodies of water due to their depth.
“Anything on Okanagan Lake I would deem as unsafe as well as some of our moving water, whether Trepanier, Bear Creek, or Mission Creek. We should really be aware and stay off those bodies of water,” said Wudrich.
A recent incident on Okanagan Lake involving the death of multiple cattle after they reportedly wandered onto the ice proved just how unsafe the lake is at this time.
“The cold snap has made most high-altitude lakes safe, just be careful, especially the Okanagan Lake,” said Ed Henczel of the Central Okanagan Search and Rescue.
“I know in the north there were some issues with the cattle walking out there and walking (in the ice) and the same things can happen to people. It’s not a pleasant way to go, so be safe.”
Wudrich says temperatures hovering around -10 C will allow the ice to be more stable. He says if you’re planning a trip out on the ice, be as prepared as possible and don’t go alone.
“Bring someone else, make sure people know where you are,” said Wudrich.
“The ice will be thicker along the shore but as soon as we approach the ice and see snow on top, that should be a red flag right there. If we see water on the ice, we know that we see deteriorating conditions.”
While ice rescues are typically uncommon in the Okanagan, according to the fire department, across Canada there are normally 25 to 30 fatalities a year that are related to ice.