On thin ice: Warmer temperatures mean dangerous lake conditions in Okanagan

The Kelowna Fire Department is warning others to stay off the lakes

With the rapid swing in temperatures, this time of year is the most dangerous time to be on the ice, says the Kelowna Fire Department’s ice rescue trainer.

Shawn Wudrich, firefighter and trainer, said people need to be more careful as the warming temperatures are causing shore melt.

“Because the weather’s nice, people are starting to get back outside again and they look at bodies of water and sheets of ice that have been stable all winter that they’ve been on and now that we start to get shore melt, the ice is starting to thin closer to the shore, and it’s thicker out in the middle.

READ MORE: Huge crack and bang heard as Wood Lake fractures

“So you can be out on an ice sheet for an extended period of time and that ice could thin and melt away when they try to come back to shore,” he said.

“It can happen very quickly especially with our huge weather swing happening right now.”

Temperatures around the Okanagan are expected to reach highs of 13 C this week. February was the second coldest on record for Kelowna.

READ MORE: Arctic chill to spread over Okanagan

This year, the fire department has responded to three ice rescue calls, but so far, they’ve been false alarms, he Wudrich said.

The amount of rescues depend on the year and the temperatures. This year has the potential for more rescues because people being on the lakes for the extended period of time, he said.

His best advice is for people to stay off the ice.

“That is the number one thing, don’t be on the ice if you don’t have to.”

“At this time of year, I would consider all ice sheets unstable based on the weather we’re getting right now.”

Wudrich said crews respond to incidents on Wood Lake and Duck Lake the most due to rapidly changing conditions.

“I’ve seen it where guys are ice fishing and they’re on an ice flow, where it’s shifting, so you can have that drift away from the shoreline,” she said.

READ MORE: Peachland ice rink going as long as possible

Debree and contaminants are also causing the water to warm unevenly, he said. He also warned about the ice at Mission Creek, and said running water has about 15 per cent weaker ice than lake ice.

“Make sure your dogs are not off leash, because the potential to have something happen there along the shore is quite high as well,” he said.

The fire department has also responded to animal-related incidents on Duck and Wood Lake, and said to avoid all lakes in the Central Okanagan.

“Shannon Lake is potentially another huge risk and it sees a lot of recreation on it,” Wudrich said.

READ MORE: Rose Valley Reservoir’s ice will be thinning

READ MORE: On thin ice: Kelowna man offers cautionary tale

READ MORE: Big turnout for Beaver Lake ice fish event

@carliberry_
carli.berry@kelownacapnews.com

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