Coast Guard warns to stay off Lake Huron

ALPENA – The ice on Lake Huron may appear to be thick and safe, but the U.S. Coast Guard is saying it is not.

The Coast Guard station in Alpena is warning people to avoid ice fishing or snowmobiling on the big lake, as ice conditions are deteriorating and will continue to do so.

Coast Guard Officer in Charge-Alpena Station Mark Szoboszlay said ice on the big lake is much different than that in the smaller and shallower inland lakes. He said there is sure to be more ice on Grand Lake and Hubbard Lake, but ice can become unstable much quicker on Lake Huron. He said many people are familiar with the inland lakes, but they are venturing onto Lake Huron because of the amount of ice this year and aren’t aware of the dangers.

“This has been the coldest winter in years and the most ice we have seen on the Great Lakes in a long time, but people aren’t accustomed to going out on them in these conditions,” Szoboszlay said. “They may get a false sense of security and there are circumstances where the wind can shift and ice can break apart quickly. Great Lakes ice can be unpredictable and dangerous.”

As freighters begin sailing for the upcoming shipping season, there also will be efforts to aid in breaking ice to allow the ships to navigate through it. Szoboszlay said that also causes the ice to be unstable. He said there are about 200 ice rescue missions needed each year on the Great Lakes and wants to avoid any locally if possible.

Szoboszlay said there are certain steps that should be taken if a person goes on the ice. He said avoiding it right now is the best decision, but if you do, be sure to check the weather and ice conditions, stay away from narrow bodies of water, as well as inlets and outlets and always inform a friend or family member about where you are going and what time you expect to return.

Szoboszlay said don’t let the ice depth trick you into believing it is safe. He said it may be abundant in one area and unsafe just feet away.

“It can be two feet thick in one small area or spot and much thinner and dangerous only a little ways away,” Szoboszlay said. “Always stay away from open water, cracks, pressure ridges, dark areas and areas where there may be a current. Lately the temperatures have been warm and when you go from cold to warm and back it weakens the ice. We just want to warn people about the dangers and to be aware of what can happen if they are not careful.”

Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at sschulwitz@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews. Read his blog, Upon Further Review … at www.thealpenanews.com