- Associated Press - Friday, January 8, 2016

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) - Relatively warm weather and unusually high rainfall have dampened winter fun for some Iowans because pond, river and lake ice is more dangerous than usual, Iowa officials said.

“The ice is not near thick enough for any kind of recreational activity, because it’s still in the early formation stages,” said Dee Goldman, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers operations manager at Coralville Lake near Iowa City.

Last month a Hills man was rescued after falling through ice in the Hawkeye Wildlife Area near North Liberty. In Mills County two deer hunters were rescued on Dec. 20 after they broke through ice at Willow Slough and got stuck in mud.

Ice in northern Iowa is nearing the safe thickness of 4 inches for recreational activity, but not so in the southern half of the state, said Iowa Natural Resources Department spokesman Kevin Baskins.

Iowa has seen a lot of what’s called transitional ice recently because the relative warmth in December kept ice from forming on lakes earlier in the year, according to the Iowa City Press-Citizen (https://icp-c.com/1OEuOk0 ).

That situation was compounded by the rain. The Midwest Regional Climate Center placed Iowa’s December rainfall at 5.01 inches, well above the previous record of 3.4 inches set in 1982.

The abnormal weather affects ice formation in ways that can make ice fishing, skating or snowmobiling on ponds, lakes and rivers even more perilous, experts said.

At Coralville Lake, for instance, water levels peaked on Dec. 29 at about 16 feet higher than normal seasonal levels because of the rain, the Corps’ Goldman said. The Corps is lowering lake level by almost a foot a day and has about 10 feet to go.

That creates a danger as ice forms on the edges of the lake but doesn’t have water underneath, creating an unstable structure called an ice bridge.

As the formations collapse and refreeze they may appear more stable than they are, said Iowa City Fire Department Lt. Dan Buser, who helps train firefighters in water rescues.


Information from: Iowa City Press-Citizen, https://www.press-citizen.com/

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