Coast Guard urges caution during ice breaking operations on bay of Green Bay

The Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw, a 240-foot heavy icebreaker.MILWAUKEE – The Coast Guard is urging residents and people recreating on the bay of Green Bay to use caution during ice breaking operations scheduled for Monday.

The Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw is scheduled to break ice in areas near the Fox River Entrance Channel, the Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal, the Menominee River entrance and the Little Bay De Noc near Escanaba.

Recreational users of the ice should plan their activities carefully, use caution near the ice and stay away from shipping channels.

Ice is unpredictable and dangerous. Ice breaking activities taking place miles away from the shore can, and often does, create instability along adjacent shorelines.

The Coast Guard always reminds people that varying levels of ice thickness are common on the Great Lakes and inland waterways. If you’re planning to go out on the Great Lakes or nearby bays in the winter, remember the acronym ICE, which stands for Information, Clothing, and Equipment.

Information: Get the right information on weather and ice conditions before going out. 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 for these signify thinner ice.

Always tell family and friends where you are going and when you expect to be back – stick to the plan and notify them when plans have changed. Use the buddy system: NEVER go out on the ice alone. If you choose to go out on the ice alone, stay in an area where other people can see you.

Clothing: Ensure you wear the proper clothing to prevent hypothermia, the biggest danger after falling through the ice even if you manage to get out immediately, and choose bright colors to be more easily seen by others. It’s not uncommon for people to become disoriented while on the ice, especially in low visibility or deteriorating weather conditions.

Equipment: Never venture onto the ice without proper safety equipment: a marine radio, a Personal Locator Beacon, life jacket, a whistle or noise-making device, and screw drivers or ice picks which can be used to pull yourself back onto solid ice if you fall through.

Wear a Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device. When the human body is immersed in cold water, an involuntary reaction (gasp reflex or cold shock response) causes a person to take a deep breath, thus inhaling water. This begins the drowning process. A life jacket allows a person to float with minimum energy expended, allows them to get breathing under control and allows the person to assume the heat escape lessening position – bringing the knees close to the chest and holding them in place by wrapping the arms around the shin portions of the legs.

The Coast Guard also reminds people to never drive on the ice. Owners of vehicles left on the ice after a rescue can be subject to civil penalties, if their vehicle causes a pollution discharge. This can happen when vehicles fall through ice that has either weakened from thawing or has shifted because of natural or man-made reasons. Such civil penalties can range from $250 to $11,000.

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