The recent snowfall painted a nice winter landscape across Western Massachusetts, but the ice on local lakes and ponds is still very dangerous.
The city of Springfield urges residents to warn their children about the ice as school vacations start next week.
"Anybody that lives near these bodies of water in the city or down by the river should have a talk with their children," said Dennis Leger, executive aide to Springfield Fire Commissioner Joseph Conant. "Tell them to stay away from there right now because it's not safe at all."
A quick arctic blast in the past several days delivered some bitter-cold temperatures to the region. However, it takes a much longer period of time for the ice to develop to safe thicknesses.
"We're supposed to have two weeks straight of temperatures below 25 degrees in order for the ice to freeze to 4 inches," said Leger.
High temperatures in Springfield have stayed below 25 degrees on just three non-consecutive days so far through Dec. 19. "No skating" signs were posted throughout Van Horn Park in Springfield, which will likely stay up for at least several more weeks.
About 4 inches of ice is needed to be safe to walk onto. Residents are urged to contact the city to find out when the ice will be OK, not by their own assessment.
"The best way to find out is to call the Springfield Parks Department," said Leger. "They have a recording that tells you whether it's safe or not."
When lakes and ponds are spring-fed by other sources of water, that can create varying thicknesses of ice, making it seem safe in one spot, but in actuality it's not safe overall just yet. Fresh snow also insulates the ice underneath, keeping it slightly warmer, not colder as one may think.
Water has a heat capacity four times greater than air, which means it takes four times as much energy to change the temperature of water one degree versus the air one degree. It's the same scientific principle that causes the Atlantic Ocean waters to remain cold in the springtime while the land temperatures in New England are rapidly warming.
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