The U.S. Coast Guard issued a reminder Monday, to exercise caution on ice throughout the entire Great Lakes region. Their message was that current ice conditions on the Great Lakes are far below the seasonal average. The combination of open water, unstable ice formation and areas of relatively weak ice may create hazardous conditions for recreational users. The public is advised to use caution when deciding to venture out onto ice covered water. The Coast Guard message said never assume the ice is safe, even if others are on it. Evaluate conditions for yourself and exercise sound judgement. Stay away from shipping lanes and other areas with vessel traffic, as ice is even more unstable and unpredictable in these areas.
If you’re planning to participate in recreational ice activities, the Coast Guard advises remembering the acronym I.C.E. before you head out. (I.C.E. = Information, Clothing, and Equipment).
Get the right information on weather and ice conditions before going out. Ice thickness is rarely consistent. Water currents, particularly around narrow spots, bridges, inlets and outlets are always suspect for weak ice. Stay away from cracks, seams, pressure ridges, slushy areas and darker areas for these may represent areas of unstable ice. Know where you are going, how to get there and how to call for help; share this information with friends and family prior to departing. This information can be valuable to first responders in an emergency.
Ensure you wear the proper clothing to prevent hypothermia and choose bright colors to be easily seen by others. It is not uncommon for people to become disoriented while on the ice, especially in low visibility or deteriorating weather conditions.
Never venture onto the ice without proper safety equipment. Carry a whistle or noise-making device to alert people of distress and a waterproof VHF-FM radio or Personal Locator Beacon to contact local emergency responders. Remember that cell phone signals can be limited and unreliable in remote areas. Carry two ice awls or screwdrivers. These instruments can aid in pulling yourself out of the water onto solid ice in an emergency and are more effective than hands alone.