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Officials across the Flathead warn that ice conditions are not safe

Temperatures have been warming up and creating unsafe ice conditions
Holes in ice
Posted at 8:46 AM, Mar 27, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-27 10:55:20-04

KALISPELL — Despite the wintry conditions and snowfall over the last few days, temperatures have been warming up and creating unsafe ice conditions across the Flathead.

“I can't speak to every body of water, but what I do know is the temperature has been super variable. It's just not consistent enough to, in my opinion, be safe,” said Flathead Search and Rescue Coordinator Darrin Wise.

A man fell through the ice while trying to rescue a calf that had fallen through on Monday, March 25, 2024. The man then had to be rescued. Incidents like these can quickly become deadly and put rescue crews at risk as well.

“And so time is of essence you know how long they've been in the water plays a factor, hypothermia can set in, whether or not they can stay afloat. Those are all key factors. And then obviously we have to take into account you know, the safety of the responders and how we can safely get to them before we, you know, we're not putting ourselves at risk. It is a risky situation, but we're going to do everything we can to mitigate it and rescue that person." - Flathead Search and Rescue Coordinator Darrin Wise

The rescue on Monday was the first ice rescue in Flathead County since September of 2023 before the lakes froze.

Officials across Flathead County are urging people to stay off the ice as conditions are extremely variable and a lot of the lakes in the area are not safe.

“One, don't go on the ice, if you do, just be prepared to break through, you know if that's the case, and there's things that people can do, they can check the thickness of the ice. Whether it's using an ice auger or chisel or an axe and the rule of thumb for ice as far as people go, there's got to be at least four inches thick,” said Wise.

As spring has arrived, winter recreation activities are ending, and conditions are becoming dangerous. Be sure to check the conditions before heading out.