Unstable ice remains danger, regardless of new snowfall

Monday’s snowstorm could be misleading in a number of ways.

A lot of snow was dumped on the area, but that doesn’t mean it’s safe to walk out on ice.

A pressure crack in the ice of West Munising Bay was discovered Saturday morning, with the crack extending from Powell’s Point on the mainland in Grand Island Township to Grand Island itself.

The crack made conditions unsafe for anyone wanting to snowmobile or fish on the ice or other ice-related recreational activity, reported the Alger County Sheriff’s Department, which also said East Munising Bay conditions weren’t safe since the ice wasn’t fully frozen.

On last week’s Upper Peninsula Fishing Report, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources noted Little Bay De Noc had very little snow cover, and the Aronson Island area reportedly had thin ice. That was considered dangerous and extreme caution was to be used at all times. The DNR also reported pressure cracks had been moving a lot over the past week, so again, caution was urged.

The problem of unsafe ice is not limited to the Upper Peninsula. The U.S. Coast Guard is warning people in southeastern Michigan and northwestern Ohio to avoid ice-covered waters as mild weather makes them increasingly unstable, according to a Detroit News article.

Already, personnel with the Guard’s Detroit Sector have rescued 18 people who have fallen through ice in the past week and three others have died. Most of the victims were riding snowmobiles or off-road vehicles or were fishing through the ice, the newspaper reported.

What was recommended was staying off the ice until cold weather returns, although anyone planning to venture onto the ice should pay close attention to weather conditions, wear proper clothing and have essential equipment like radios, life jackets and ice awls.

The DNR has a list of tips for safety on the ice, the strength of which can’t always be determined simply by its look, thickness, temperature or presence of snow. Clear ice with a bluish tint is the strongest, and ice covered by snow always should be presumed unsafe.

Consider that snow acts like an insulating blanket and you’ll understand why; snowfall can warm up and melt existing ice.

The DNR recommends wearing a life jacket and bright-colored clothes when going out on ice, with a cell phone on hand for emergency use. People also should avoid large cracks or depressions in the ice, and test ice thickness with an ice spud before settling on a spot to drop a fishing line, for instance.

There are other things to consider, but basic caution should be utmost in people’s minds.

So, we strongly urge people to think twice when going out on ice.

And if there’s any doubt, stay off.