Northern Michigan in Focus: Ice Safety by Great Lakes Shores

We’ve had a lot of stories this week about people and vehicles falling through the ice on inland lakes, but there’s another kind of ice the U.S. Coast Guard would like to warn you about.

Corey Adkins explains in this Week’s Northern Michigan in Focus.

“I definitely think it’s awesome to go exploring and looking into nature’s wonders, but have a plan and if it feels unsafe, it’s probably unsafe,” says Simon Ochoa, an aviation technician and rescue swimmer.

Ice formations and ice volcanoes, they’re something that people find fascinating and they’re starting to form around the Great Lakes in spots—but they can also be deadly.

“Human curiosity dictates we have a human interest to see something like ice formations or ice volcanoes and things like that.  What people don’t understand, is from the perspective of the shore, you don’t get to see how dangerous going out actually ice actually is,” says Lt. John Geary, an aircraft commander.

Check this out. Footprints walking right to the edge of this ice ledge near Elk Rapids.

Geary says you have no idea what’s underneath you.

“From the vantage point of the water when you’re looking towards the coast, you can see how hollow these ice caves and these ice volcanoes actually are,” he says. “And how thin ice can be.”

Just feet down from the footprints are collapsed ledges.  Imagine falling in there.

“Overall, it’s a situation if you were to fall through the ice in a spot like that,” Ochoa says. “There’s really not any way to get out or call for help. You don’t know how thick the ice is and you don’t know stability because it is a ledge.”

Down the coast is an example of an ice volcano.

You can see where the water goes in and the water would spout out of the hole if the wind was going in the right direction.

From the ground, it looks harmless.

“Which makes it extremely unsafe if you’re going to walk on the top of it because the bottom is hollow and there’s nothing to support you,” Ochoa says. “It’s a scenario if you fall in there, there’s nowhere to go.”

Because if you do fall in and the coast guard needs to be called…

Geary says, “From the second that we’re notified, we are going to be airborne 30 minutes later, and that’s excluding any transit time. So depending on how far away you are from Traverse City Airport, if you’re far away, you better be willing to wait a while for us to get to you.”

And if the beauty of the ice draws you to see them from a kayak or paddle board, Ochoa has some advice.

“Enjoying them from a distance is the best advice I have. Going inside any kind of an ice cave on the shore is probably not what I would do, and that’s not something that I would recommend,” Ochoa says.

Common sense can be your best friend.

“If you do decide to do this very dangerous activity, please make sure you’re smart about it,” Geary says. “Have emergent gear, have flotation, have a float plan, have a GPS locator and always plan for the unexpected but when the unexpected comes across you we’ll do our best to get you to you in time.  But it’s best to be safe than sorry.”

Categories: Northern Michigan In Focus