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Caution urged: Officials warn public of changing ice conditions at lower harbor

MARQUETTE — Changing ice conditions at Marquette’s lower harbor due to increasing temperatures were the subject of a warning issued by the Marquette City Police Department on Monday.

Police are urging the public to take precautions before venturing out on the ice in light of above-freezing temperatures that are following a combination of arctic cold and sunshine over the last two weeks, which turned Marquette’s lower harbor into a natural, smooth and crystal-clear skating rink on Lake Superior.

However, during the cold snap, thousands of locals ventured out onto the big lake to skate, play hockey, ice fish and get a close-up look at the Lower Harbor Ore Dock, a centerpiece of the city’s waterfront and ode to Marquette’s industrial past.

Like a scene out of a movie, the sight of thousands of people of all ages taking in Lake Superior’s natural beauty could be considered surreal, so much so it garnered attention around the state and nation.

Unfortunately, all things must come to an end. With temperatures in the region expected to rise above freezing this week, MPD is warning the public about ice conditions in the area.

“We have all been enjoying the sights around the Lower Harbor Ore Dock recently with the amazing ice conditions,” the department said in a statement posted to Facebook. “Mother Nature and the frigid cold certainly provided us all a unique opportunity to enjoy the area like we never have.

“But with warmer weather expected, we can expect the ice conditions to change and they can change rapidly and frequently. Conditions can change from day to day, even hour to hour. Before venturing out on any ice, please take precautions to make sure you stay safe.”

Accompanying the Facebook post was an infographic from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources providing tips for staying safe on ice-covered waters, which states that ice should be at least 4 inches thick to be deemed safe for individuals to venture out on. Ice should be at least 5 inches thick for snowmobiles, 8 to 12 inches thick for passenger vehicles and 12 to 15 inches for pickup trucks. For white or snow-covered ice, it’s recommended those thickness guidelines should be doubled.

Other tips shared include carrying two large nails to use as ice picks in case of a fall through the ice, avoiding pressure ridges and areas with a current, warning children about the dangers of thin ice, avoiding driving on ice at night and avoiding alcoholic beverages.

The city of Marquette also put out a statement on Monday urging the public to proceed with caution, with tips such as using the buddy system and letting someone know where you’ll be if you go out.

“Because of the recent popularity of walking and skating on the ice in the lower harbor and the expected warmer weather this week, we’d like to remind residents that there is a strong potential for the harbor ice to shift and/or break up without much notice,” city officials said in a Facebook post. “Due to warming weather and strong currents, Lake Superior ice conditions may deteriorate rapidly.

“Your safety is your responsibility. If you do go out on the ice, let someone know where you are going, do not go alone and check current ice condition reports before you go. Remember, when in doubt, do not go out.”

According to data from the National Weather Service, last Monday’s minimum temperature in the Marquette area was 18 degrees below zero. The maximum temperature Monday was expected to be 39 degrees, a 57-degree increase over the week prior.

For any questions regarding ice conditions or safety, contact the Marquette City Fire Department at 906-225-8936. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources also has a dedicated ice safety webpage at https://www.michigan.gov/dnr/0,4570,7-350-79135_81057_91749—,00.html.

Ryan Spitza can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 248. His email address is rspitza@miningjournal.net.

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