Historic Green Lake ice is tempting but treacherous, say experts

Jan 13, 2017, 10:44 AM | Updated: Jan 14, 2017, 8:39 am
KIRO 7's Gary Horcher talks with two people walking on Green Lake's ice. (KIRO 7) A father and daughter break up the ice around a dock on Greek Lake to warn people about the dangers of the thin ice. (KIRO 7) KIRO 7's Gary Horcher talks with two people walking on Green Lake's ice. (KIRO 7) A cyclist does tricks on top of a thin layer of ice over Green Lake in Seattle. (KIRO 7)

Seattle historians can cite only four times in the last 101 years that Green Lake has iced over from end to end.

In 1916, photographs show hundreds of wool-bundled skaters crowding on the south end.

In 1930, cars drove over the ice. But in Green Lake’s latest ice-age, you will see people tempted to take big chances treading on ice which is not thick or strong enough to safely walk on, say experts.

Related: SDOT sends convoy to help snow-covered Portland

Grace Fletcher posed for photos as she glided on the ice off a dock near the Green Lake Stadium.

“I think anyone would pretty much be good here,” she said.

“It’s like four or five inches thick,” said Devon Tremain. “It’s safe to be out here.”

Green Lake ice

KIRO 7 measured a cross section of ice on the southwest end. Most of the ice was measured to be less than three inches thick. Safety experts generally agree that four inches is the minimum thickness of ice to safely support people. Signs warn people to stay off, and even though you can actually see air bubbles move under the surface of the ice, people walk across and they jump onto the docks.

“I also feel that if it starts to break, I could leap onto the dock which is only a couple feet away, ” Fletcher said.

Cyclist Elliott Serles said he felt perfectly safe riding his bike here, ignoring the warning signs. “If you’re going to live your life on warnings, then you’re not really going to have a lot of fun,” Serles said.

Nearby, 13-year-old Claire Milisavljevic and her father, Pele, had seen enough risk-taking. They brought tools to Green Lake and started hammering holes in the ice from one of the docks, using a hatchet and an ice chopper. They said they were chopping holes in the ice in an act of public safety.

“I’m trying to keep people from falling in,” said Claire Milisavljevic.

“By breaking the ice, we might be saving somebody’s life, maybe, hopefully,” said Pele Milisavljevic.

Seattle Fire Department’s Rescue Diver Spencer Nelson says anyone who falls through the ice could suffer deadly shock in minutes.

“People take big gasps like getting splashed with cold water,” Nelson said. “You take big breaths in, you aspirate, your body starts shutting down right away, and your odds of surviving are very slim.”

That’s why Claire Milisavljevic figures removing temptation will help people make solid decisions.

“I feel like it’s really important to stay safe, even though walking on ice is really fun.”

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Historic Green Lake ice is tempting but treacherous, say experts