Coast Guard urges extra caution on northern Great Lakes ice

SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. – The U.S. Coast Guard is urging people to use extra caution when venturing onto ice on Lake Superior, the St. Marys River, and the northern parts of lakes Michigan and Huron.

Rain, winds and above-freezing temperatures are in the forecast for this weekend. Those conditions are expected to bring melting and weakening ice in the Great Lakes region.

The Coast Guard notes ice thickness can vary, even in small areas. Water currents can cause thin ice and cracks can indicate dangerous conditions.

The Coast Guard closes waterways to boats each winter near Mackinac Island, Bois Blanc Island and Beaver Island to allow for the formation of ice bridges. Those typically are used for travel to and from the islands, but the Coast Guard says ice bridges aren't safe this year.

The 1-10-1 Principle: 1 minute - 10 minutes - 1 hour

Everyone who enters cold water doesn't drown, but research shows that many drowning incidents may be the result of cold shock response and cold incapacitation. In cold water drowning situations, if you survive the first minute, the cold will soon rob your muscles of their strength and dexterity. Even strong swimmers can experience swim failure after a few minutes.

When a cold water situation begins, a person has about one minute to gain control of their breathing and 10 minutes or less of meaningful movement and muscle control to get themselves out of the water. Severe hypothermia will set in within one hour, but without a life jacket, the victim is likely to drown before that occurs.