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Warm weather, high winds create dangerous ice conditions on Lake Simcoe

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Police urge the public to stay off the ice after a week of whirlwind weather, creating a battleground of shifting ice and unpredictable conditions.

"Heavy rains, spring thaw, and quickly melting snow can cause rivers, creeks or streams to overflow and flood. Stay away from moving water and avoid already flooded areas," Georgina Fire posted on social media Friday morning.

The police service said the past few days have resulted in drastically changing conditions on the ice.

"It is very dangerous out there, and it's just not worth putting your life at risk," said Const. Bill Thomas, York Regional Police Marine Unit.

Ice huts aren't technically scheduled to be off the lake until March 15, but most ice hut operators have already called it a season.

"There was no choice ... the ice wasn't thick enough to withstand the temperatures and the rain," said Luke Ledlie with Fish Simcoe Hard Waters Outfitters. "At this point, even the structural integrity of the main ice sheet itself ... I would consider it unsafe."

Emergency crews that are often called for people, vehicles and pets that have fallen through the ice say the public needs to consider the risks of even being near a body of water right now.

"That blanket of fresh new snow that we've got in the last 24 hours really gives it a look that it's nice, clean, solid ice, and just below that, those few inches of new snow that we got is really treacherous ice conditions that are being disguised," said Cory Mainprize, Barrie Fire chief.

Environment Canada says the risk on the ice on Friday isn't simply because of the mild spell.

"This winter was not normal. I mean, the ice didn't form ... there was more and more rain than snow ... there were these melting and freezing days, which makes for rotten ice," explained David Phillips, a senior climatologist with the national weather agency.

Phillips said models show warmer than typical temperatures as we head into spring, suggesting it could turn out to be a warmer summer this year as well.

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