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Coast Guard urges caution on ice as temperatures increase

March 9, 2015
SAULT STE MARIE, Mich. — The Coast Guard is urging people to use extreme caution on waterwaysthroughout Lake Superior and northern Lakes Michigan and Huron since warmer temperatures are forecast through next Tuesday. The above freezing-temperatures could pose safety concerns on waterways which have been frozen during the past couple of months. There have already been cases in the lower Great Lakes in which people have fallen through the ice. This is also the time of year when ice breaking operations are increasing throughout the Great Lakes in preparation for the Sault Locks opening on March 25 and commercial traffic starting to transport goods. This will create especially hazardous conditions in harbors, ports and waterways in which these operations are taking place. Rising temperatures will cause 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 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.

Captain Steve Teschendorf, commanding officer at Coast Guard Sector Sault Ste. Marie, urges mariners to use caution and be prepared before venturing onto ice.

"This week's predicted above-freezing temperatures will make ice conditions hazardous and unpredictable," said Teschendorf. "The public should remember that no ice is safe ice." 

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