Lake Flower ice is dangerously thin, fire chief says

Two snowmobile incidents on Lake Flower ice in recent weeks

The Saranac Lake Volunteer Fire Department’s airboat heads out on Lake Flower on Tuesday. The SLVFD chief has warned that the ice on the lake is very thin and dangerous. (Provided photo — NYDEC)

SARANAC LAKE — The Saranac Lake Volunteer Fire Department is warning snowmobilers, cross country skiers, ice fishers and anyone that recreates on Lake Flower that the ice on the lake is very thin and dangerous. The warning came after a search for a missing person, which initially sparked concern that the person may have fallen through the ice.

On Tuesday morning, SLVFD members, along with state Department of Environmental Conservation rangers and the New York State Police, searched for a missing snowmobiler whose sled was found abandoned on relatively safe ice around 60 yards offshore near 109 Branch Farm Road. The snowmobiler was found safe later that day, NYSP Public Information Officer Brandi Ashley said.

Ashley said the sled had broken down and the rider walked off the lake.

“It’s definitely good news,” she said.

This was the second snowmobile incident on the lake in the past two weeks, SLVFD Chief Brendan Keough said. The first, on Jan. 24, involved a snowmobile going through the ice in the narrows on Lake Flower in front of Harbor Hill Cottages.

“The person basically jumped off their sled before it was completely through the ice and landed on top of the ice shelf,” Keough said. “The snowmobile sunk in about 11 or 12 feet of water.”

With Winter Carnival this week, he said there are more people than usual out on the ice. In order to have a safe and fun Winter Carnival, he is urging people to stay off the ice on Lake Flower.

“It’s really a river. People don’t realize it. We call it a lake, but it’s really a river,” Keough said.

He said there’s a steady current that constantly flows under the ice down the lake to the dam on Main Street.

“It’s really important. I’m just really worried because the conditions on Lake Flower are so poor,” Keough said. “I mean, it’s terrible. … Straight out from the boat launch, where people like to walk, there’s a big hole. … Literally, there are spots out there that have an inch or less of slushy ice.”

The blocks of the Ice Palace are thick, but that is because they were harvested from Pontiac Bay near the corner of River Street and Lake Flower Avenue, where the water is not moving and ice can grow thick.

“Even during the coldest winters, ice conditions on Lake Flower are always unsafe and extremely unpredictable throughout the winter months,” Keough wrote in a statement. “Ice conditions on Lake Flower and other surrounding lakes are especially poor this winter due to the unseasonably warmer temperatures.”

These poor ice conditions will only continue to get worse with rain and an upcoming warmup predicted in the forecast, he added.

Abandoned sled

On Tuesday at 6:53 a.m., SLVFD set out from the state boat launch on Lake Flower with an airboat and seven members, with assistance from DEC rangers, three ice rescue technicians and one EMT.

“The airboat crew immediately encountered extremely poor ice conditions on the lake,” Keough wrote.

The snowmobile was located on top of the ice in the channel and there were no obvious signs that anyone had fallen through the ice, he said.

“Residents in the area stated they believed it broke down sometime early Monday evening,” Keough wrote. “They also reported that they saw the snowmobile operator walking on the ice towards Birch Street. SLVFD tracked footprints in the snow from the snowmobile across the Lake to an area near a Branch Farm Road residence and Birch Street.”

State Police and DEC Rangers continued to investigate the missing operator until he was found later on Tuesday. Keough said it is the snowmobile owner’s responsibility to remove their snowmobile from the ice.

The snowmobile which had gone through the ice on Jan. 24 was removed by its owner with an airboat and winch the next day, he said.

“First responders will always respond to these types of incidents until it is otherwise determined there is no emergency and/or the individuals involved are safely accounted for,” Keough wrote. “Anyone who recreates on our frozen lakes can help first responders quickly resolve these types of incidents by making a courtesy call to the proper authorities.”

He said if anyone self-rescues, leaving a hole in the ice; abandons a vehicle on the ice for any reason; or lost a vehicle to the waters, they should report it to the authorities.


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