Safety always first when venturing out onto area ice

Even though we may not be completely finished with the cold temperatures this season, this weekend’s warmer than normal weather is a clear indication that the spring thaw is certainly on its way.

We’ve all seen how the layer of ice covering the Great Lakes can remain long after the snow on the shoreline has melted away. But the strength of that ice, as well as the ice covering our inland lakes, is undoubtedly weaker now than it was earlier this winter.

That being said, we feel it is important, and always a good idea, to remind our readers to keep safety in mind when considering stepping out onto the ice.

The U.S. Coast Guard late last week issued a press release stating that the warmer temperatures could pose safety concerns for those planning to recreate on or near ice or cold water.

“Ice is unpredictable and the thickness can vary, even in small areas,” the release states. “Warm temperatures and 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 dark areas since these signify thinner ice.”

The Coast Guard also cautions that ice near the shore of a frozen lake may be unsafe and weaker because of shifting, expansion, wind and sunlight reflecting from the bottom.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources takes a similar stance, and notes that ice forms unevenly, with wind, water depth and other factors contributing to how thick a layer of ice can be.

“Fresh, clear ice is stronger than milky or off-colored ice, which might have thawed and refrozen. Ice that is covered with snow can be either,” the DNR said in a recent piece for its Showcasing the DNR series.

In any event, it’s always a good idea to try to determine ice conditions before taking a step off solid ground, and testing the ice in front of you as you go farther out.

“Typically, punching the ice in front of you with a spud can alert you to soft or thin spots in what appears to be otherwise solid ice,” DNR officials said.

The DNR offers a long list of ice safety tips on its website we feel are worth taking a look at. The list can be viewed by visiting www.michigan.gov/dnr and searching for “ice safety.”

When the sun comes out and the ice begins to thin, we must all be careful to not endanger our own lives and the lives of the first responders who are sent out in the event of an emergency.

We’ve been relatively lucky this winter when it comes to incidents involving ice, and hopefully this trend can continue for many years to come.

By using common sense and following some simple ice safety tips we can all stay safe, which is the reason why this editorial was written.

We hope to remind people of the dangers weakening ice can pose to our outdoor enthusiasts. And we also hope, that by spreading the message of ice safety awareness, we can prevent the pages of The Mining Journal from being filled with news of unfortunate tragedies that could have been avoided.

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