Okoboji Ice Accidents Lead to Rescue Officials’ Caution

 
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published: 25 January 2014
by: Beairshelle Edmé

Lake Okoboji, Iowa, USA

This past weekend’s University of Okoboji Winter Games weren’t so fun for more than a dozen people who went through the ice. Luckily they all survived, but the incidents have rescuers urging people to be much more cautious when they go out on the ice.

Arnold's Park - Okoboji Fire Department

Arnold’s Park – Okoboji Fire Department

Scenes from what looked like the Hunger Games took place all throughout last weekend during the annual Okoboji Winter games. One team out on the ice was put to the test with a record breaking five rescues.

“What we had happen this weekend is the seam popped up on us. A lot of people weren’t aware of the seam right away, and so, at night time and then during the day when they’re driving, they were having trouble seeing it and then driving right into the weak spot or the water,” said Chief Chris Yungbluth of the Arnold’s Park/Okoboji Fire Department.

In total, the team rescued 14 people and 2 dogs from separate incidents at Pillsbury Point and an area under the local sawmill bridge. But despite the high number of rescues, these icy conditions are normal for the area, especially when there’s sub-zero temperatures.

The ice blankets can form as much as 24 inches on the lake, making it possible to drive on ice.

But when two ridges push together from pressure, a crack happens, leaving drivers vulnerable to fall into the lake.

“It’s a frozen body of water. There’s always springs or flows or different things that can change what happens to the ice and so it’s always a constant change,” said Yungbluth.

Arnolds Park / Okoboji Fire and Rescue airboat

The Arnolds Park / Okoboji Fire and Rescue airboat was called into service Saturday morning after a Jeep tried to navigate waters between Upper Gar and Minnewashta Lake. Ice is unstable at several spots in the Iowa Great Lakes despite unusually cold conditions this winter.

That’s why he says you should always consult the experts on whether it’s safe to be on the ice, and when driving on these conditions, simple tips can help you if your car goes under.

“Keep their windows cracked, uh, take their seatbelts off, uh, again just be very aware of the conditions when they’re out here. Don’t overdrive their headlights. There’s no reason to get in a hurry out here on the ice. You can get to where you’re going and be a lot safer if you slow down and just keep a close eye on the changing conditions, the changing colors of the ice, uh there’s a lot of things you just have to watch for when you’re out here,” Yungbluth said.

Officials also advise people to drive on “clear” ice, which is stronger and less likely to crack.