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Water/Canal Safety – Winter Edition

Water and Ice Safety image

The Canal is one of the highlights to our community, it stretches through Welland and into neighbouring cities. In the summer the canal is filled with activities ranging from competitive sport to families’ pedal boating. Once the summer comes to an end and winter starts to appear, our canal begins to freeze, calling out to those winter sportsmen.

The Welland Canal is flatwater but often residents, new and old forget that it is still active water. The water treatment plant draws in water, the shipping canal locks change the water levels based on work being completed, the water is constantly moving creating gaps or flooding areas where ice has formed. Sadly, all this activity is not always seen and when there is a thin layer of ice holding still the frozen canal looks safe and inviting.

Before stepping on to any frozen water, as you are doing this at your own risk, we urge you to know ice safety and cold water facts. According to Lifesaving Society approximately 35% of drownings in Canada occur from October to April when most people have no intention of going into the water. Snowmobiling and ice accidents account for most of these incidents.

To stay safe, check the ice to make sure it's thick enough and always wear a lifejacket during activities around the water. When in doubt, stay clear of the ice.

An available resource for Cold Water Awareness can be found at The Canadian Safe Boating Council website.

The Facts:

  • Water in Ontario is colder than you think.
  • A person can go into cold water shock in less than 1 minute.
  • You can only survive a few minutes in cold water.
  • Most drownings occur in water less than 20 degrees Celsius.
  • No ice is without risk.
  • Motorized activities over frozen bodies of water poses a large risk.

Ice Safety Tips:

  • Check the ice thickness.
    • Colour of ice matters;
      • clear blue ice is the strongest
      • White or opaque ice is much weaker, stay away from ice that looks honeycombed, common during thaws or in the spring
    • near-shore ice is often much thicker and safer than ice farther out, especially at the start of the winter season.
    • ice that formed over flowing water, springs, pressure cracks, old ice holes or around the mouths of rivers and streams can be weaker than surrounding ice
  • Wear a lifejacket and survival suit, these items can buy you some time and can preserve body heat.
  • If you are going out onto ice, know what to do if you break through.