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Pond skating never a good idea

Sunday - 1/26/2014, 3:23pm  ET

WASHINGTON - Icy ponds and frozen lakes may be fun to skate on, but fire officials warn that they can be deadly.

The D.C. area has experienced a wide range of temperatures this winter - from 72 degrees in December to 9 degrees in January. This temperature fluctuation causes uneven freezing in naturally occurring ice.

"Unlike northern climates, where it gets cold and stays cold, these warming and thawing temperatures create very dangerous ice," says Capt. Brian Ferguson, instructor for Prince William County's Swift Water Rescue program. "There is no good ice in this region that is safe for people to go out on."

Recently, a Montgomery County fourth grader died after falling through an ice-covered pond.

Underwater currents and snow can also erode the ice in areas that can't be seen from shore.

"Just because you walk out ... jump up and down ... stomp and say 'Oh, the ice is fine,' you might all of a sudden come across a weak spot and fall through," Ferguson says.

He warns that once someone falls into the freezing water, they can succumb to hypothermia within 10 minutes. "The person in the water can quickly lose consciousness and lose the ability to control their muscles and even hold onto the edge and stay afloat." The rescue program also says that ice can melt four times faster than it forms.

Officials advise residents to visit local skating rinks instead.

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