Sheriff: Use caution when on the ice
ESCANABA — Despite the fluctuating temperatures seen in the area as of late, representatives of the Delta County Sheriff’s Department (DCSD) said local lake ice should still be relatively safe for the time being. However, people planning to head out on the ice over the next few weeks are advised to be cautious while doing so.
Sheriff Ed Oswald said things have been going well for the DCSD this winter in terms of ice safety.
“We’ve had a good year so far,” he said.
In the area between Escanaba and Portage Point, Deputy Mike Groleau said, ice conditions were observed to be ideal recently.
Groleau said he was on the ice last week to test airboats brought to the area by Marion, Wis.-based company 1000 Island Airboats.
“They brought a couple airboats up … for us to try out,” he said. These airboats are designed primarily for icewater rescues.
According to Groleau, the department is interested in purchasing one of these airboats at some point.
“It’s something we’d like to look for a grant for in the near future,” he said. Gladstone Public Safety has a hovercraft which is used for water rescues, but Groleau noted the airboats are larger and easier to operate.
While ice in the area is thick enough that it should not be significantly affected by increases and decreases in local temperatures in the short term, Groleau said these changes could have an impact on the ice’s top layer.
“It’ll become more porous and degrade … a little bit, but then it’ll refreeze when it gets more cold,” he said. Eventually, this cycle can weaken lake ice.
Oswald also shared some ice safety tips for people in the area to keep in mind.
“People should always keep something on them … to be able to pull themselves out of the water (with),” he said, noting that an ice pick or screwdriver can be used for this purpose.
He also advised people to check on ice conditions before heading out.
“Check the bait (shops),” Oswald said.
While people are out on the ice, Oswald advised them to keep an eye out for pressure cracks.
“That’s always a concern starting up this time of year,” he said.
People who fall through the ice but are able to bring themselves back up should contact the authorities to let them know they are safe, Oswald said.
“If you do go through … make sure you call 911,” he said.
According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, ice shanties must be removed by midnight on March 31 for all counties in the Upper Peninsula. Shanties may still be used in the area after this date, but they must be removed from the ice daily. They also must be removed as soon as the ice cannot support them safely.