Vt. officials warn of variable ice conditions following 3 deaths

Published: Feb. 13, 2023 at 4:43 PM EST
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Three people have died in the last week after falling through the ice on Lake Champlain, and with warmer weather on the way, officials are warning people to stay off the ice.

“I’m going to do a little bit of Nordic skating,” Phelps Holloway told us on Monday. Despite hearing about the three tragic deaths that happened over the past week, Holloway was undeterred. “Big difference with Nordic skating versus other forms of skating, is most of us use poles. With poles, if you have any questions about the ice you, can probe it, you can get a pretty good idea of how strong it is.” He adds that he never goes out on the lake if the ice is under six inches.

But Vermont Fish and Wildlife and other officials have recommended people stay off the ice for now. They say with temperatures going up this week, the ice isn’t expected to get any better.

North Hero Fire Chief Michael Murdock agrees. He spent Monday morning out on the ice fishing and says people have to be careful because certain areas on the lake are dangerous. “I went fishing this morning, but I picked a spot where I knew there were other people. I checked the ice before I ventured out onto it, you know -- that’s a big thing,” he said.

Murdock says he’s never seen the conditions this bad before in February. He says with the warmer temperatures, this winter’s ice is forming differently, with a variety of thicknesses on the water.

The National Weather Service confirms the lake’s ice cover is not where it usually is this time of year. “Even this year, it’s taken quite a while down by the lower parts, down by Malletts Bay, to freeze over as well. The rest of the lake really hasn’t frozen over at all, except for a small portion over by Isle La Motte,” said the NWS’ Conor Lahiff.

Murdock says if you do decide to go out on the lake, there are some areas you should avoid. “Stay out of the high current areas, stay away from bridges,” he said.

And officials also remind folks to bring safety gear, bring a buddy, and leave a travel plan.

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