Police warn of dangers of being on river

Amy MacKenzie
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NEW GLASGOW – Police are warning residents that the even though the East River appears to be frozen, it is not safe to walk, skate, or snowmobile on.  

“We’ve had reports of people close to the river, on the river and it’s a very dangerous river because of its unpredictability,” Const. Ken MacDonald of New Glasgow Regional Police Services said. “We have currents, we have tides, there’s a lot of change in air temperature, which makes it unpredictable.”

He said the mixture of salt and fresh water in the river along with recent temperatures also makes the river dangerous to go on and ice thickness unpredictable.

“We want to make people aware that there is the perception that it looks safe, but it’s not,” MacDonald said. “It’s particularly dangerous this time of year because we’ve had a lot of freeze and thaw and snow, which hides it.”

MacDonald said he saw footprints on the East River near Glasgow Square, where the ice was very thin Friday morning.

“You can see the sides here today (are thin). That snow is going to cover that so it could look perfectly safe, but looks can be deceiving. Especially when there’s snow,” he said. “This ice can be very unpredictable. We did have a fatality (in 2008) because somebody walked out on the ice, which was unsafe.”

MacDonald said ice must be 15 centimetres thick to walk or skate safely on it, 20 cm thick to have multiple people skating or walking on it and 20 cm to safely skidoo on it.  

“You can look at ice thickness in terms of the colour of the water. Clear blue ice is the strongest. White, opaque or snow ice is half as strong as blue ice. This grey ice, that is unsafe,” he said while pointing to the East River. “It’s grey because of the presence of water.”

MacDonald said the Canadian Red Cross has tips for what to do if you fall through ice on its website.

“If you get into trouble and fall through the ice alone, you can yell for help. Resist the urge to try to grab out. You want to put your hands out straight and use your torso and legs to kick out and float on your stomach. Use your clothes to act as buoyant,” he said. “Once, you are successful in getting out, crawl towards the shoreline on your stomach.”

MacDonald also has advice for if you see someone who has fallen through ice.

“If you notice someone who has fallen through the ice, yell for help and if possible call 911. Try to throw something out that will keep them afloat temporarily,” he said. “Don’t crawl out towards them too close or you’ll risk putting yourself being in danger. If possible, use a piece of clothing, or twig, crawl out on your stomach and assist them that way.”

For more information on what to do if you fall through the ice or see someone fall through ice, visit  HYPERLINK "http://www.redcross.ca/icesafety" http://www.redcross.ca/icesafety.

Organizations: New Glasgow Regional Police Services, Canadian Red Cross

Geographic location: East River, NEW GLASGOW, Glasgow Square

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