Coast Guard urges caution on ice as warmer temperatures linger through Saturday

SAULT STE MARIE, Mich. — The Coast Guard is urging people to use extreme caution on waterways throughout Lake Superior and northern Lakes Michigan and Huron since warmer temperatures are forecast through Saturday.

The above freezing-temperatures could pose safety concerns on waterways which may have frozen during the past couple of weeks.

Earlier today, a watchstander at Sector Sault Ste. Marie received a report of an individual stuck on an ice floe in Duluth Harbor in Minnesota. The individual was able to walk to shore before local emergency personnel and the Coast Guard arrived on scene. This case demonstrates the unpredictability of ice.

Rising temperatures will cause recently-frozen waters to further melt and become weak. 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 (H.E.L.P.) – bringing the knees close to the chest and holding them in place by wrapping the arms around the shin portions of the legs.
  • Never go out on the water alone. Use the buddy system.
  • Always check and monitor the marine weather forecast before and during any trip out onto the lakes.
  • 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 jacket so they’re close at hand in an emergency.

Lt. Cmdr. Mike Hjerstedt, the command duty officer at Coast Guard Sector Sault Ste. Marie, urges mariners to use caution and be prepared before venturing onto ice.

“As today’s search and rescue case in Duluth demonstrated, the recent above-freezing temperatures are making ice conditions hazardous and unpredictable. Thankfully no one was hurt,” said Hjerstedt. “However, as always, the public is encouraged to follow the Coast Guard’s recommendations for cold water and ice safety.”

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