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Marylanders reminded to Stay Smart, Stay Safe in Winter Weather

adult showing a young angler his latest catch ice fishing

Photo by Matt Sell

Check conditions and plan ahead before venturing out

With winter still flexing its muscles, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources urges outdoors enthusiasts to stay smart and safe. Cold-weather hazards are hard to see ─ particularly at night ─ and even a small mistake can quickly turn deadly.

“We encourage everyone to enjoy outdoor recreational opportunities, but we urge you to stay alert for unexpected weather and exercise caution,” said Col. George F. Johnson IV, Maryland Natural Resources Police superintendent. “It doesn’t take much for conditions to deteriorate, especially when temperatures fluctuate.”

Visitors to State Parks, including Deep Creek Lake, should have a game plan, and ensure that their clothing and gear are up to the adventure.

“While winter weather provides a quiet, serene park experience not found during the busier warmer months, it does pose some additional challenges,” said Maryland Park Service Superintendent Nita Settina. “Your best defense is to know the weather before you go, and always provide someone with details of your plans before heading out. If high winds, storms or frigid temperatures are forecast it’s best to put your outdoor plans on hold.”

Two skiers enjoying the falling snow posing and for a photo op.

Photo by Steve Badger

Tips to help ensure a safe and enjoyable outing:

Write a travel plan that includes a cell phone number, destination and estimated trip length and leave it with friends or family members.

Check the weather before venturing out and sign-up for a weather alert service for your cell phone or computer to get the latest conditions.

Watch for ice, as it is often extremely hard to see and can cause those traveling either on foot or by vehicle to lose control.

Check ice thickness before stepping onto a frozen pond, lake or any other water body. While general guidelines suggest ice more than four inches thick can bear the weight of a person on foot, it is important to remember there is always a level of risk. Ice seldom freezes uniformly and ice formed over moving water, such as a river or stream, often is dangerous. Road salt and abrasives plowed from highway bridges also affect the quality of ice underneath lake areas.

Beware of hidden snowdrifts, which can act as ramps and cause sleds and snowmobiles to become airborne leading to a loss of control and accidents.

Boaters should anticipate inclement weather. Have a plan, always wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket, and make sure your vessel has the proper safety equipment, such as stress signals, a horn, bell or whistle, and navigation lights. Visit to learn more.

Snowmobilers, ice fishermen, hikers and cross-country skiers should wear a lifejacket and be cautious when traveling on or around a body of water.

For information on ice conditions or recreation opportunities at Deep Creek Lake, call a park ranger at 301-387-5563 during the week-day or the Discovery Center on weekends at 301-387-7067. 

***In the event of an emergency ─ including reporting people, pets or wildlife that have fallen through the ice ─ call 911 or the Natural Resources Police at 410-260-8888.