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April 23. 2014 4:46PM

Ice-out declared on Lake Winnipesaukee


Lake Winnipesaukee is free of ice in this photo taken Wednesday morning by Dave Emerson. (COURTESY)

GILFORD – Ice-out on Lake Winnipesaukee was declared this afternoon, and with the declaration came new warnings from state Marine Patrol officials about the dangers of going in the water, particularly people who have seen the “Polar Plunge” trend on social media in recent months.

Dave Emerson of Emerson Aviation in Gilford determines when ice-out occurs.

“It's officially Ice-out today on Lake Winnipesaukee,” Emerson declared at 2:30 p.m.
Emerson declares ice-out each year when he finds that the M.S. Mount Washington, which is docked during winter months in Center Harbor, can make it to each of its five ports. Ice-out is seen by some as the beginning of spring, and a time when homeowners on the lake can begin to use the waters.

The earliest ice-out recorded was in 2012 on March 23, narrowly beating out the previous record of March 24 from two years before. The latest it occurred was in 1888 on May 12.

It has now occurred nine times on April 23, which is one of the later dates on the record books, though it's not the May ice-out that Emerson predicted in late March, when the ice was slow to melt. Since then, lots of rain and warmer temperatures helped the ice melt quickly.

“There's still a little ice near Two-Mile Island, that's the last holdout, but it's not enough to keep the Mount Washington from making its rounds,” Emerson said.

When Emerson told Marine Patrol officials he was preparing to make the ice-out declaration, they asked him to make a special additional notification to the public this year.

“The Marine Patrol wants to warn everyone that the waters are still cold, and no one should be participating in the Polar Plunge,” Emerson said.

State officials have been warning about the Polar Plunge since April 14, the day a Northfield man died in the waters of the Smith River near Profile Falls after he likely participated in the activity, which is popular on social media sites, authorities say. It involves people jumping into ice waters, sometimes after being dared.

“We've had at least one tragedy from the Polar Plunge this year already, in the Smith River,” said Marine Patrol Capt. Tim Dunleavy.
“People need to know that ice-out doesn't mean the waters are safe for swimming,” Dunleavy said. “The water temperatures have been ranging from 36 to 40 degrees; this is a very dangerous time to find yourself immersed in water.”

Even expert swimmers cannot survive in lake and river waters now. It will take until mid-June, he said, for the waters to be safe for swimming.

Meanwhile, there is a fad circulating challenging young people to jump in cold waters. Authorities “can't warn people enough” about the dangers of the Polar Plunge fad, Dunleavy said.


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