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ICE CAUTION: Warmer Temperatures Bring Danger on Ice, Warns Coast Guard

Operation Taconite Underway in Straits of Mackinac, Lake Michigan

December 24, 2016       Leave a Comment
By: Dave Rogers

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Coast Guard cutter opening ice lanes for shipping in Operation Taconite.
 

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

Temperatures above the freezing mark 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, say Coast Guard safety experts. 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.

Most 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.

Meanwhile, the 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.

The Coast Guard is responsible for conducting icebreaking operations to assist commercial vessel traffic in the connecting waterways of the United States. These include the connecting waters of the Great Lakes.

Great Lakes icebreaking consists of two task group organizations: Coal Shovel (Sector Detroit) Taconite (Sector Sault Sainte Marie). The groups are named for the principal products supported by the region? coal and taconite respectively.

Operation Taconite is the largest of these operations and is the largest domestic icebreaking operation in the U.S. Shipping offers the only effective means of transporting the vast amounts of iron ore from the mines at the Head of the Lakes needed to meet the demands of steel mills in Lake Erie and Lake Michigan. Operation Taconite is primarily responsible for ensuring the successful transport of this cargo amid the harsh winter conditions of the northern Great Lakes.

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Dave Rogers

Dave Rogers is a former editorial writer for the Bay City Times and a widely read,
respected journalist/writer in and around Bay City.
(Contact Dave Via Email at carraroe@aol.com)

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