COLUMBIA — Several hundred people are registered to take part in the 2014 Polar Plunge Columbia on Saturday. But Friday morning, there was one small problem: Stephens Lake was frozen solid.
The ice was at least four inches thick, said Gabe Huffington, park services manager with Columbia Parks and Recreation Department. In fact, people were playing ice hockey on the lake on Thursday, Huffington said — not an ideal situation for jumping in the water.
Members of the Parks and Recreation Department resolved the situation by cutting a 20 by 30 foot hole in the ice with a chain saw, Huffington said. They then used a backhoe to break up the chunks and move them to shore.
"This year will probably be colder than previous years," said Crystal Schuster, a development manager for Special Olympics Missouri.
But despite the weather forecast, more than 500 hundred people have registered online, Schuster said, a number comparable to previous years.
Participants will be divided into groups of 20 and encouraged to walk, run or, if need be, crawl into the frigid water, according to the event website.
As a safety precaution, the Columbia Fire Department will have divers on hand, Huffington said.
This is the seventh annual event, and proceeds will benefit Special Olympics Missouri, according to its website.