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Forest Service warns of hazardous ice conditions on Mendenhall Lake


JUNEAU, Alaska—December 12, 2016. Officials with the U.S. Forest Service warn hikers that changing conditions on Mendenhall Lake do not guarantee safety for people recreating near the glacier.


“We have had wonderful snowy days and cold weather this winter,” said Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center Director John Neary, “but hidden hazards can create weak ice even in the coldest temperatures.”


Mendenhall Glacier calves regularly throughout the year, including winter. When a large piece of ice breaks off the glacier, the lake ice below is broken as well. The lake is 200 feet deep at the terminus with a water current flowing beneath the ice that could pull someone under.


Nugget Falls continues to flow all winter which keeps the lake water open near the waterfall and at times, surprisingly far out onto the lake. Creeks that flow into the lake also create thin ice that may be hidden by snow. Icebergs imbedded in the lake ice can shift or roll. Two large rockslides three years ago broke lake ice in several locations without warning. Deep cold does not ensure safety, pointed out Laurie Craig, who often observes people walking onto the ice.


“It is important to be prepared if you walk across the lake ice,” she added. “The distance from the glacier to the visitor center is 1.5 miles. That is a long way to walk if you are wet and cold.”


Forest Service staff recommend hikers tell friends where they plan to hike and when they intend to return. Understanding rescue techniques for yourself, your pet or other hikers can save lives from icy water.


One person has already fallen through the lake ice this weekend. He was able to extract himself and warned others to avoid the hole where he fell.


For more information, please contact Laurie Craig at 907-789-6635 or via email at mlcraig@fs.fed.us.


The Alaska Region of the Forest Service manages almost 22 million acres of land within the Chugach and Tongass National Forests to meet society’s needs for a variety of goods, services, and amenities while enhancing the Forests’ health and productivity, and to foster similar outcomes for State and private forestland across Alaska. The U.S. Forest service is an agency of the United States Department of Agriculture. See our website at http://www.fs.usda.gov/main/r10/home for more information.


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