Coast Guard urges caution after recent ice rescue cases

Crewmembers from Coast Guard Station Rochester, New York, navigate their inflatable rescue boat during a rescue of two people who became stuck on an ice floe in Lake Ontario March 18, 2017. The Coast Guard rescue crew worked closely with the Webster, New York, Fire Department to bring both people safely to shore. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Senior Chief Petty Officer Jason Pata)

Crewmembers from Coast Guard Station Rochester, New York, navigate their inflatable rescue boat during a rescue of two people who became stuck on an ice floe in Lake Ontario March 18, 2017. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Senior Chief Petty Officer Jason Pata)

CLEVELAND — The Coast Guard is urging the use of extreme caution on and near the waterways after the rescue of more than a dozen people in the last seven days.

Above-freezing air temperatures are weakening and melting ice at a fast rate and pose a safety concern for anyone venturing onto the ice.

Recently, crews rescued 11 boaters in Saginaw Bay, Michigan, after the boaters’ vessels became trapped by ice floes, making it impossible for them to get to shore.

The previous day, two people were rescued in Irondequoit Bay, New York, after they became stranded on an ice floe off shore.

The Coast Guard urges people to be aware of changes in environmental conditions and to be properly prepared when venturing out onto the ice.

Ice is unpredictable and the thickness can vary, even in small areas. Water currents, particularly around narrow spots, bridges, inlets and outlets, are always suspect for thin ice. Stay away from cracks, seams, pressure ridges, slushy areas and darker areas since these signify thinner ice.

In addition, people who plan to recreate on waterways should heed safety precautions to ensure a safe and enjoyable outing.

The Coast Guard offers these cold water and ice safety tips:

  • Remember the acronym ICE, which stands for Information, Clothing and Equipment. To stay safe on the ice, get the right information about conditions and weather, wear appropriate clothing, and don’t leave home without the right equipment to stay alive.
  • Always wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket, and dress for the lake temperature. A life jacket allows a person to float with minimum energy expenditure and allows the person to assume the Heat Escape Lessening Position by bringing the knees close to the chest and holding them in place by wrapping the arms around the shin portions of the legs.
  • Never venture out alone. Use the buddy system.
  • Always check and monitor the marine weather forecast before and during any trip out onto the lakes. For example, wind can cause ice to crack, creating ice floes that can drift away from land.
  • Carry a registered personal locator beacon in addition to a marine radio to alert the Coast Guard and local safety agencies of potential distress. Consider a waterproof hand-held model that can be worn.
  • Carry all required and recommended safety gear, such as visual distress signals and a sound-producing device. Carry your visual distress signal and whistle in the pocket of your life vest so they’re close at hand in an emergency.

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