Paducah, Kentucky NWS Educates Us on Ice Safety — How Thin Is Too Thin and How Thick Before Your SUV Can Park on It
Let's go back to consecutive Januaries in 1977 and 1978 when Owensboro and the tri-state got pounded with massive winter storms.
THE FROZEN OHIO RIVER
And then it got super cold and the Ohio River froze up.
My mom took me down there because she hadn't seen it frozen over like it was since the early 1950s when her younger brother, my Uncle Vic, walked all the way out onto the middle of the river and then walked back. He was 13 at the time and she was 19. Both agreed that my grandmother would never learn about that. And as far as I know, she never did. My grandfather wouldn't have cared. He probably would've tried to drive his big old heavy DeSoto onto it. I did NOT inherit the "let's throw absurd amounts of caution to the wind" gene from him.
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE ICE SAFETY CHART
Cars today, even big ones (or ones that PASS as big in 2021), aren't nearly as heavy as those steel gas-guzzling monsters from the mid-20th century. But I still wouldn't drive one out onto the ice.
But if YOU want to try something like that, you'll need to wait until the ice is at a level of thickness that you might be difficult to measure. And the way to know JUST how thick it needs to be before you can start walking on it or driving on it is to check out a graphic from the National Weather Service's Paducah office.
This is a very helpful guide that not only states the obvious but also provides a template for whatever daredevils might be reading this.
Now when I said earlier that it might be difficult to measure ice thickness, I meant that I'm not sure how it's done. But SOMEBODY knows or else "Danger: Thin Ice" signs would just be placed randomly.
So, it looks like you need at least nine inches of ice to support a vehicle. Well, that's fine, but you can count me among those who will NEVER drive on an iced-over river, although 43 years ago, it might have been possible between Cincinnati and Covington.
WALKING OR -- DARE I ASK -- DRIVING ACROSS A FROZEN RIVER?
The Ohio River was frozen like I had never seen it before and like I have never seen it since. And up in the Cincinnati metropolitan area, it was colder than it was down here. Although, as the announcer says, it was 21 degrees below zero. I doubt that meant it was ABOVE zero in Owensboro.
Who knows if we'll even HAVE the kind of wintry precipitation in the coming months that would ALLOW putting a lot of weight on an icy river or lake or pond? Who knows if it will even get cold enough for ANY ice to develop on the water's surface.
Regardless, I want to reiterate that ROADS were made for vehicles and that's where you will always find mine. Like the sign says, "If you don't know, don't go."