LFD Says Stay Off Playa Lakes if They Freeze

Low temperatures mean playa lakes could freeze, and if they do, the Lubbock Fire Department says stay off the lakes.
By Monica Yantosh

LUBBOCK, TX -- To some people, skating on a frozen lake could be the perfect winter scene, but according to the Lubbock Fire Department, the playa lakes in Lubbock are not made for that.

Low temperatures mean playa lakes could freeze, and if they do, the Lubbock Fire Department says stay off the lakes. While ducks and geese which frequent the lakes are able to walk or sit on the frozen surface, the lakes won't support more weight than that.

Battalion Chief Rob Keinast said the two main dangers are drowning, and hypothermia. The cold winter winds and wet clothes mean hypothermia can kick in quickly.

He also reminds everyone that looks can be deceiving when looking at a frozen surface. "Although the ice may look solid, it's not. You just have a thin coating, a thin sheen on top, not going to support your weight and the last thing we want is anyone falling through into the icy waters. A plea for parents: talk to your children before they go out and play this weekend, and make sure they know to stay off of those playa lakes," Keinast said.

It's against Lubbock city ordinance to swim in the lakes, which just means keep off the lakes, as tempting as they may look. "This is a city ordinance, no swimming, no on the ice in playa lakes," Keinast said.

He also said the water can be deep, even if it doesn't look it. "At playa lakes, we have incidents where cars have driven off into playa lakes and under the water and have been there for years before they are found. So yes, that water is deep enough where you can drown," Keinast said.

The Lubbock Fire Rescue does have a dive team that will respond to these kinds of accidents. "They have a small boat to go out there, obviously in icy conditions, the boats not any good, they have techniques where they're going to go out by safety lines, and bring, make a rescue," Keinast said.

The cold temperatures aren't just tough on anyone outside, or who may fall into a lake, they also impact the firefighters responding. "Temperatures in the lower single digits, wind chills well below zero, any exposed skin, obviously you have frostbite conditions, firefighters will be out there, car wrecks that may be up on an overpass, on a water rescue, it's going to affect you," He said. "We have protective clothing, but it's going to take its toll."

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