LAWRENCEVILLE - The onset of prolonged below-freezing temperatures, which North Georgia is expecting early next week, can cause lakes, ponds, creeks and ditches to freeze over and form a thin sheet of ice across the surface area.
With that in mind, the Gwinnett County Fire Department is advising people to stay off the ice since the ice that forms on bodies of water in the area is usually very thin, extremely unstable and unable to support much weight.
The water seldom freezes uniformly, spokesman Tommy Rutledge says, thus posing an extreme danger to anyone attempting to stand or walk on the ice. Ice may freeze to almost a few inches thick in one location (rarely the case in southern states) and be only a few centimeters thick a foot or two away. It can look inviting, but Capt. Rutledge warns against using the frozen surface as a skating rink or a place to play. Doing so endangers the lives of emergency responders and those who are potentially in need of rescue. "The thickness of ice that forms on bodies of water within the county is not strong enough to hold the weight of an adult, child or even large animals," he said.
Three years ago, two young boys died when they fell through thin ice on a Gwinnett County pond . Authorities at the time that 14-year-old Jacob Bullock and 13-year-old Marvens Mathurin were playing and sliding on the semi-frozen pond when the ice broke. Fire officials said they became trapped under the ice and spent nearly an hour in the frigid water. They were unresponsive and unconscious when rescue workers pulled them from the pond.
If you do fall through a frozen body of water, Capt. Rutledge says remember to stay calm, reach for solid ice, kick to exit the hole, and then roll to safety toward the shore. Never attempt to go out on the ice to rescue another person in distress. Try to reach the victim using a long pole or a throw rope and stay safely on the shore. Be prepared to treat the person for hypothermia or shock and seek medical attention right away.
Rutledge added that if you have an open body of water on your property, keep an eye out for children who may be in the area. Post warnings around the water and provide an access barrier whenever possible.
In dealing with other aspects of the deep freeze expected next week, Rutledge says dress in layers of warm insulated clothing and limit your time outside; monitor weather and road conditions before going out for the day and notify family and friends of your plans; extinguish the fire in the fireplace and turn off space heaters before going to bed or when you leave the house; install and maintain working smoke alarms and a carbon monoxide alarm inside the home; develop a home escape plan and hold fire drills to practice.