A series of ice emergencies and warmer weather on the way have renewed warnings about safety on New England's frozen or semi-frozen lakes and ponds.
Vermont State Police said a man in his 70s had to be plucked from Lake Champlain in Ferrisburgh Sunday after the section of ice he was on broke away. EMTs treated him for minor cold-related injuries.
That man, Dan Doyle, told necn by phone by that is counting his blessings and so grateful for a second lease on life.
Doyle said he's glad he thought ahead and had an ice pick with him, to stabilize himself after falling into the water.
A woman who was outside feeding the birds heard Doyle’s cries for help, he said, and summoned neighbors to rescue him with a small aluminum boat.
It was the latest in a series of problems on the water in the last few days.
According to the Maine Warden Service, Richard Dumont, 52, of North Attleboro, Massachusetts, died this weekend in Oakland, Maine when the snowmobile he was on broke through a weak spot on Messalonskee Lake.
Late last week, a man and his dog fell through ice on Bakers Meadow Pond in Andover, Massachusetts. Both of them were expected to be just fine, the community’s fire chief said.
"One place, you could have nine or 10 inches of ice," observed Boatswain's Mate Third Class Lucas Weston of the U.S. Coast Guard. "And another place, you could have just an inch."
Weston praised Doyle's decision to carry an ice pick with him the day he ventured onto the ice in Ferrisburgh.
"We always recommend people carry ice awls with them. If you don't have actual ice awls, screwdrivers on a string around your neck work just as well," Weston said. "Always wear your life jacket if you're out there, and tell people where you're going."
Greg Hanson, a hydrologist for the National Weather Service in Burlington, said high winds and not enough of a really cold stretch of temperatures have left ice conditions highly variable.
"We've got another warm spell coming up; daytime temperatures in the 40s, overnight lows may even stay above freezing," Hanson said. "So that's one of those things where any gains we might have in ice thickness—that may work against us."
Don Johnson, who was ice fishing off Vermont's Sand Bar State Park in Milton Tuesday, said he checks and re-checks ice conditions for safety.
There were nine or ten inches of ice in the shallow water where he was fishing, but Johnson said different areas of the lake, especially areas more exposed to wind, likely have far less ice.
"I love it," Johnson said of ice fishing. "I'd go every day if I can. I wish there was ice all year!"