Jim Staricha, ice recovery man, tells what to do when the ice gives way

Dennis Anderson, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) on

Published in Outdoors

A: Yes. Again, the tendency in that situation is to freak out. But you have to figure a way out. When you're in a vehicle underwater, or under a vehicle, it's scary.

Q: What speed should vehicles travel on ice?

A: Never over 10 miles an hour, preferably slower. Go faster and you can buckle or "roll" the ice ahead of you.

Q: Should a vehicle's windows be down while traveling on ice?

A: Generally, yes. Especially if they're electric. If you go through ice, electric windows won't work. If it's midwinter and you're traveling slow on a dependable resort road, maybe you don't need the windows down. But if it's me, I'd turn the heat up and roll a window down.

Q: When a vehicle goes through, does it fall to the bottom nose first, dragged down by its heavy motor?

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A: Oftentimes, yes. Unless it goes in sideways. Then it will go down sideways. Every situation is different. Years ago, we drove vehicles into holes in the ice to see what happens and to practice recoveries. But the DNR now wants us to take the engines and the oil out. It's not worth it.

Q: How valuable is a windshield-breaking tool to have in a vehicle?

A: It's critical. They only cost about $5 and they can save your life. Most also have a sharp edge that can cut a seat belt. People don't realize how difficult it can be to depress a seat-belt button under water. And if you think you're going to punch out a window, or kick it out, forget it. But with that tool you can break the window. Also, keep it on the dash where you can get to it. Not tucked away in a glove compartment.

Q: How about carrying ice spikes to pull yourself onto good ice if you've gone in?


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