Ice-breaking operations start in Great Lakes

Associated Press • Dec 24, 2016 at 7:00 AM

SAULT STE. MARIE — The U.S. Coast Guard has started ice-breaking operations in response to developing ice conditions in commercial ports along western Lake Superior and the St. Marys River near Sault Ste. Marie in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

Coast Guard Sector Sault Ste. Marie started Operation Taconite earlier this week. It encompasses Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, the Straits of Mackinac and the St. Marys River.

Coast Guard cutter Alder is directed to manage the ice-breaking needs of western Lake Superior. Coast Guard cutter Biscayne Bay has been dispatched to break ice in the St Marys River.

Additional Coast Guard icebreakers will join the operation as ice growth continues on the Great Lakes in the coming weeks.

Coast Guard urges caution as warmer weather returns

The Coast Guard is urging people to use extreme caution on and near waterways ahead of warmer temperatures that are forecast to return beginning this weekend.

The above-freezing temperatures could pose safety concerns throughout Lake Michigan and inland rivers, streams and ponds that have become frozen during the past few weeks. 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, ice near the shore of a frozen lake may be unsafe and weaker because of shifting, expansion and sunlight reflecting off the bottom.

A majority of Coast Guard units around Lake Michigan have winterized their rescue boats and, as a result, there is a reduced capability to respond to anyone in distress on the water.

The Coast Guard is also urging people to remain clear of shorelines, piers, jetties, rocks, walkways and jogging paths that may have become covered in layers of ice.

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