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Hear from the 'Ice Expert' about staying safe when driving on frozen waterways

Ice on Lake Winnebago
Posted at 9:02 AM, Jan 05, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-05 18:19:30-05

NEENAH (NBC 26) — A week ago, the ice on Lake Winnebago looked much different than it does now, after some rain.

“With the rain right now we're getting and had for the last couple of days, it's hard to see where it's ice and where it's water,” said Ryan Kring, NMFR shift commander.

But as we get further into winter, people are wondering: "is the ice safe yet?"

“The ice is never 100% safe, we will never tell anyone it's safe to go on,” said Kring.

Neenah Menasha Fire Rescue is equipped for ice and water rescues.

“It's Neenah Menasha fire rescue, dive rescue, water rescue, we kind of do everything. It changes, in the summer we're open water to in the winter open water and hard water,” said Kring.

Even though they're equipped to help in emergencies, they urge people to be safe to begin with.

“We always recommend having some type of spud or pick, try not to go out by yourself. The biggest thing is if you don't know what you're doing or where you're going, stay off the ice,” said Kring.

Fire departments and Sheriff's offices are equipped to rescue people from the ice, but what if their cars need to be rescued?

That's where Don Herman comes in, he's been pulling cars out of the water for 43 years.

“I'll tell you some nicknames they call me ice expert, they call me Hollywood Herman,” said Don Herman, SUNK Ice and Dive Service owner.

Rain or shine, Herman has a team of divers that can rescue all types of vehicles.

“We have a lot of fun when we pull cars, it's dangerous, don't get me wrong it's dangerous. We're out mucking around on thin ice and bad weather, it could be raining, it could be snowing, it could be 10 below,” said Herman.

In the past 43 years, the weather has never stopped Herman.

But Neenah Menasha Fire Rescue recommends waiting till the ice is thick and white to bring heavy vehicles onto it.

“Generally, we're going to look at 2 inches to support a person, you're looking at 4-6 for a UTV/snowmobile and anywhere from 8 or more for vehicles,” said Herman.

Driving on the ice is legal, and if you ask Herman, a fun activity but it's important to put safety first.

You can visit for ice safety tips.

Meet Olivia Acree: NBC 26's reporter for Neenah and Menasha!


Olivia Acree

9:53 AM, Jul 14, 2022
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