Police and fire officials could not have been more blunt regarding the dangers of traveling onto Chautauqua Lake too early this winter season.
Two incidents on the same day brought the same old recycled warning: there's simply too much risk to be on the lake without knowing for sure if the lake is safe.
And alas, it seems those warning have once again gone in one ear and out the other. One area resident in Lakewood recently fell through the ice on Chautauqua Lake. Police could not identify what he was doing out there to begin with. Another on their snowmobile partially fell through the thin ice near Ellery.
In both instances, neither were reportedly wearing a life jacket. Thankfully both got themselves to shore before first responders arrived to render first aid.
When asked to weigh in on the dangers of the lake this winter, a few area law enforcement officials almost seemed beside themselves.
"The ice is just not safe. I don't know how else to say it," said Undersheriff Charles Holder.
"It seems this time of the year we're always going out there for this. Nothing changes," added Sgt. Paul Gustafson of the Lakewood-Busti Police Department.
The facts are there. The common sense seems to be lacking. For the second year in a row, unseasonably warm winter temperatures have produced little in the way of ice. Certainly the ice isn't thick enough for a snowmobile, which can weigh upward of 600 pounds, and not enough for other recreational activities. Although ice fishing may be a staple this time of the year, ice fishermen need to be sure the ice is thick enough.
Thankfully Chautauqua County has a well-trained water rescue team. They are the type of people you're thrilled to have but never actually want to see. Having them respond at all should be an indicator that someone isn't listening.
Just ask any meteorologist what falling into a sub-frozen lake can do to the human body. Hypothermia can take hold within minutes. The risks simply far outweigh any possible reward this winter season.
We understand the joys of the lake and its economic impact on Chautauqua County, but people need to take safety precautions, especially during winter warm spells. It's a small price to pay.