The ice and snow has been melting fast as temperatures rose into the 60s this week, despite several snowstorms the previous week. This pier in Meredith show the water on one side and ice on the other. (Courtesy Jennifer Lea Reynolds)
By RICK GREEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN
In his more than 20 years with the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department, Col. Kevin J. Jordan has never seen a day as tragic as Saturday, Feb. 11, when three people died after their snowmobiles broke through the ice of Lake Winnipesaukee and plunged into frigid water.
He calls that day "a perfect storm" of bad conditions on a lake that never completely freezes anyway, but he remains concerned about the potential for ice accidents in the closing weeks of winter.
"I'm going to worry until the snow cover goes away," he said Friday. "When everything gets covered up with snow, people make mistakes. They don't realize they're on thin ice. People from out of town may not know that and they get into trouble."
Jordan urges people to test the ice to make sure it's stable. This is especially important on Lake Winnipesaukee.
"It is one of the more unpredictable lakes, in terms of currents, land mass, prevailing winds, depth," he said. "You can have an area with 10 inches of ice and then it just goes down to open water.
"You can't go flying across the lake and assume everything is OK. You can end up in open water."
Killed in one of the accidents on Feb. 11 in Alton was Arthur Remy, 15, of Mamaroneck, New York. Mark O'Connell, 62, of Moultonborough and David Crosier, 67, of Westborough, died the same day in Moultonborough.
"It was a horrible tragedy, the worst one we've ever had," Jordan said.
With unseasonably high temperatures of about 60 degrees in recent days, lake ice is melting fast, which presents another problem. People can get into trouble when driving onto frozen lakes to retrieve their ice fishing shelters, or "bob houses."
Vehicles used to retrieve these huts sometimes break through the ice. Occasionally, one of the shelters will fall through the ice and sink to the bottom of the lake.
"We've made cases on people who leave them and they go down," Jordan said. "They are full of things like propane heaters. The debris can be a hazard to boats that come out in the spring."
Jordan said recent years have included warmer winters that could limit the thickness of ice.
National Weather Service spokesman John Jensenius said the long-term average winter temperature at Concord since record-keeping began in 1868 is 23.3, while the average for the period from 1981 to 2010 was 23.9.
"So, overall, there has been a slight warming trend," he said. "However, if you consider the past 10 years, five of the winters have averaged above normal and five of the years have averaged below normal, one just barely below normal."
This bobhouse in Meredith may still be on solid ice, but the open water is encroaching. (Courtesy Jennifer Lea Reynolds)
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