Emergency personnel urging people to avoid walking on frozen lakes and ponds
SULLIVAN COUNTY, Tenn. - We've all seen videos before of people ice skating or playing hockey on a frozen pond in the winter. But here in the Tri-Cities, even walking on frozen water could be your last steps.
A frozen pond may look like a winter wonderland, but what lies underneath could kill you.
"We've had a lot of people fall into the lake or a creek or a pond," Sullivan County Director of Emergency Management Jim Bean says.
Under that ice is freezing cold water, and keeping afloat until help arrives is no easy task.
"You can experience total fatigue within 10 minutes," Bean explains. "You can even lose of consciousness in less than 30 minutes."
Drowning is just one of the deadly consequences of falling in. The other is hypothermia.
"It's a pretty significant issue because immediately, all the bodies vital functions start slowing down," Dr. Saad Al-Khatib, the Emergency Room Director at Franklin Woods Community Hospital in Johnson City, says. "It can even lead to the heart stopping."
You may know a body of water in the summer, but in extreme winter weather conditions like the ones in our area right now, a lot can change and the unknown is what scares emergency personnel the most.
"You don't know how thick the ice is," Bean says. "You don't even know where the weak point of the ice is."
However, if you do fall in and are able to get out by yourself, Dr. Al-Khatib says the first thing you should do is strip down completely and "get dry clothing or blankets on and start the active heading process."
For a more detailed breakdown explaining how you can tell if lake ice is safe or not, check out this blog from our Storm 5 Weather Team.