Attention all snowmobilers and ice fishing enthusiasts - if you're planning to be out this week, use extreme caution.

The U.S. Coast Guard is warning that the warmer weather we've seen in the last few days could create safety risks for those planning activities on or near ice or cold water.

Unseasonably warm air temperatures will cause frozen bodies of water to melt at an extremely fast rate, and could cause confusion about water temperatures which can stay deadly cold even with warmer weather.

This could cause anyone who goes out onto the lakes serious, even life-threatening harm.

Even in small areas, ice thickness can vary. Warm temps and moving water, especially around narrow spots, bridges, inlets and outlets, are always hotspots for thin ice.

The Coast Guard is warning New Yorkers to stay away from cracks, seams, slushy areas and darker areas. These signs mean thinning ice.

Also, ice near the shore of frozen lakes may be weaker and unsafe because of shifting, expansion, wind and sunlight reflecting from the bottom.

The Coast Guard is urging everyone to use common sense near ice and remember that going out onto unsafe ice not only puts your life at risk, but puts the lives of first responders at risk as well.

Here's a list of tips to keep in mind if you're ice fishing or snowmobiling during this stretch of warmer weather:

Before you head out onto the ice or onto the water, make sure you take the necessary precautions that could save your life:

  • Always wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket. A life jacket allows a person to float with a minimum of energy expended and allows the person to assume the Heat Escape Lessening Position by bringing the knees close to the chest and holding them in place by wrapping the arms around the shin portions of the legs.
  • Dress for the water temperature not the air temperature. Don’t let warm temperatures deceive you. Wear a dry suit in any cold-water environment to increase the chance of surviving a fall into the water.
  • Hypothermia is the biggest danger after falling into the water, even if one manages to get out immediately. Every minute counts in a cold water environment. Hypothermia sets in quickly as the human body's core temperature drops below 95 degrees (35 degrees C). Preparation may mean the difference between a life saved or a body recovered. Cold water drains a body's heat up to 25 times faster than cold air.
  • Dress in bright colors, wear reflective clothing, patches, or tape, and wear an exposure suit that is waterproof. The chance of locating a person in distress is increased when the individual wears bright and reflective clothing.
  • Never go out on the water alone; always use the buddy system.
  • Carry a registered personal locator beacon in addition to a marine radio to alert the Coast Guard and local safety agencies of potential distress. Consider a waterproof hand-held model that can be worn.
  • Carry safety devices such as visual distress signals, a sound-producing device, or screwdrivers or hand picks that can be used to pull yourself out of the water if you fall through the ice.
  • Always tell family and friends where you are going and when you expect to be back. Stick to the plan and notify them when plans change.

Be safe and have fun.

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