(SALISBURY, Md.)- The recent cold snap and this weekend's snowstorm may combine to create deadly conditions on frozen lakes, ponds and streams, the Maryland Natural Resources Police warn.

"Winter got a late start and there's a strong urge to go out and skate, ice fish or snowmobile. But no ice-especially what we have in Maryland right now-is safe," Acting Superintendent Lt. Col. Ken Ziegler Jr. said. "Snow will only serve to mask the danger."

Conditions this week vary. Deep Creek Lake has a layer of ice about an inch thick. Places such as the boat ramp at the mouth of the Monocacy River in Frederick County have a thin veneer of ice. Many smaller streams on the Eastern Shore remain slushy.

There are no hard and fast rules about ice safety because weather, water depth and other physical factors all play a role. As a result, people must assess the risk and make their own decision about stepping out on ice.

In evaluating the quality and soundness of the ice, people should remember:

Never walk or ice fish unless there is at least 4 inches of clear, solid ice underfoot.

Snow can hide cracked, weak ice and open water areas.

Be aware of stream inlets and outlets. Ice can vary in thickness due to the erosive action of underlying current.

Slush indicates that ice is no longer freezing from the bottom and is a warning of weak or deteriorating ice.

Wind velocity influences ice formation. Light winds speed up the formation of ice. Strong winds force water from beneath the ice and can decay the edges of the ice.

Every winter, first responders and Natural Resources Police officers rescue people who have fallen through the ice or are stranded on a piece of ice far from shore. If you should decide to venture out, let someone know where you are going and when you expect to return. Never go out alone.

Wearing a life vest under your winter coat will improve your survival odds if you fall in. But you also should be prepared to help save yourself or your companions.

Carrying a couple of large nails, ice picks or wooden-handle screwdrivers will give you a way to pull yourself back onto the ice if you fall through. A nylon rope or walking stick will help you pull someone else out. Once you are out of the water, roll away from the hole until you are on solid ice.

For information on ice conditions 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. To report people, pets or wildlife that have fallen through the ice, call either 911 or the Natural Resources Police dispatch center at 410-260-8888.