Stay off the ice: Helsinki rescue officials say it’s just too thin now

Some people are still out on the ice - especially inland - but beware that it is getting much thinner now.

File picture showing Gulf of Finland sea ice in February 2019 / Credit: News Now Finland

Helsinki Rescue Department is warning people about the dangers of thin ice and says it’s no longer safe to go on any of the sea ice around the capital.

Compared to a year ago, there’s much less ice now on the Baltic Sea due to warm weather, sun and rainfall – with the ice getting thinner even faster.

Officials say it’s not safe to venture onto the ice any more, unless you really know how to prepare yourself.

“Usually for example fishermen have good rescue suits or equipment with them, but ordinary people may not understand what can happen when you go walking on ice” says Taisto Hakala from Helsinki Rescue Department.

Practical ice advice

The Finnish Association for Swimming Education and Lifesaving SUH offers some practical advice about going out on the ice.

There needs to be at least 5cm of ice to support the weight of an average person walking on it. For snowmobiles, it needs to be 15cm thick.

Wind ice is not so strong as ice that’s been formed in calmer weather, while sea ice is more fragile than freshwater ice.

SUH warns in particular about walking on ice near reeds, bridges and piers.

Meteorological information

Typically at this time of year the ice starts to disintegrate along the south coast anyway, however the recent warmer weather has made it much more extensive.

“In many places the ice has started to go thinner, even though it may get colder in March” explains Patrick Eriksson from the Finnish Meteorological Institute FMI.

“We get to the point where the radiation from the sun heats the open water and the existing ice will not increase any more” he says.

Last year at this time there was widespread ice coverage across the whole of the Gulf of Finland and the Gulf of Bothnia. Now there is only inland coastal ice with more in the north than south.