How Do You Rescue a Sinking SUV? Ask for the Super-Pontoon Special!
Wait, it was 22 below zero here a few mornings ago! How can lake ice possibly be unsafe? I don't have the answer key, but I suspect it's all the snow we've had: 80-100" and counting. Snow is an excellent insulator, and a few feet of insulating snow probably kept the lake ice from thickening up properly - or an underwater spring - or a strong current beneath the ice. Any number of factors may be in play, but I suspect it's a symptom of our extra-snowy winter.
This YouTube video is from Rusk County, Wisconsin, where a Lincoln Navigator received an unwelcome car wash back on February 1. The folks at StormChasingVideos.com seem to agree with my theory about heavy snow being the culprit: "On February 1st, 2023 a Lincoln Navigator broke through the ice on Potato Lake in the far western part of Rusk County, WI. The driver was able to escape without injuries. Thankfully the front end of the vehicle was able to remain on better ice, and the vehicle didn't become fully submerged. Even with the past cold air. The condition of the ice on many area lakes have not improved. This mainly due to all the snow blanketing the ice, as the snow is insulating the ice."
I have seen a lot of pontoons in my day, but I've never seen a rig like this. A team of 3-4 positioned the pontoon over the vehicle, staying clear of open water and close to the pontoon itself.
After careful positioning the vehicle is carefully winched out of the water, the additional weight of the SUV spread more evenly on the ice. Even if the entire rig went through the ice the pontoon would still support the weight of the vehicle.
I couldn't help but notice that the "rescue team" stayed on top of (or very close) to the pontoon itself. Good idea, especially on unstable ice.
Which brings up a timely reminder to have a minimum of 12-15" of quality ice before thinking of driving an SUV or pick-up truck onto your favorite lake. Some of our heaviest snow came before that run of subzero weather around Christmas, which resulted in uneven ice thicknesses on many lakes.
My take-away: assume nothing. Measure ice thickness with an ice auger in a few spots (and always have a quick means of escape just in case you still break through). It's always good to be a little paranoid. Take it easy out there. And if you see my fancy new pontoon on Potato Lake, Wisconsin this summer wave hello and we'll share a cold beer!