Icy Lake Michigan can still be dangerous - Fox 28: South Bend, Elkhart IN News, Weather, Sports

Icy Lake Michigan can still be dangerous

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Almost 90% of the surface of the Great Lakes is frozen over, and our very own Lake Michigan is about 80% frozen over. The last time we saw a freeze like this was in 1996. So it's safe to say, "The BIG FREEZE" is taking over the Great Lakes.

People at Silver Beach in St. Joe, Michigan couldn't help but take in the view. Sam Dronen says it was the first time he's been out to Lake Michigan all season, "It's just like WOW!" Sam said.

I found Earl Bickett, who came out just to grab a memory saying, "I wanted to get a picture of it frozen. It doesn't happen to often." As a Chicago Native, Bickett remembers the last time he saw Lake Michigan like this. "When we were kids that's what happened. You could look out as far as you could see and it was frozen. I think it's cool to see that again."

While it is pretty to look at, the lake can be dangerous in winter. Luckily, The U.S. Coast Guard in St. Joe hasn't had any ice rescues so far this season. But Ken Sheltry, a member of the U.S. Coast Guard, says they're prepared. He tells us the primary resource for the coast guard in ice rescue is helicopter. Those two rescue helicopters he mentioned are stationed in Traverse City and Detroit. He says, "It all depends on their response time. But we'll be out there ready when they get there in case they need to airlift somebody off, if they're further off shore."

When every minute counts, Sheltry says they have to head out at the same time as those helicopters to rescue those who have fallen in. Normally, they have a 25-foot rescue boat the Coast guard able to go out on Lake Michigan, but since the ice is so think, they can't even get it out of the boat house. Sheltry says, "If we did have open water, we'd be able to use it, but since it's not open, we have an inflatable boat." The inflatable boat is designed to tackle any terrain when saving a victim. He says, "Where there is small amounts of open water, we're able to transit through. And where it's frozen over, we're able to pick it up and drag it along the ice."

So rest easy, the Coast Guard is ready. But with conditions like this, the Coast Guard says you should stay OFF the lake. The Berrien County Water Rescue also says they haven't had to do any ice rescues so far this season.

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