Great Lakes ice conditions unpredictable, Coast Guard warns

On Monday, the U.S. Coast Guard rescued two groups after they were stranded on ice floes in the Great Lakes. The Coast Guard has now issued a warning about unpredictable ice conditions and tips on avoiding an ice disaster.

The U.S. Coast Guard issued a warning about unstable ice conditions on the Great Lakes after rescuing 25 people on Monday.

Deployed teams rescued two separate groups of people stranded on ice floes. A group of 11 people was stranded in Lake Michigan off Sherwood Point, Wisconsin. A Coast Guard crew safely transported the five adults and six children back to the shore.

On the same day, 14 more were stranded on an ice floe in Lake Huron off Sebewaing, Michigan. Airboats and ice rescue teams safely transported the group back to shore. Two people from the group received treatment for hypothermia.


"Ice is unpredictable, especially given the fluctuating air temperatures and historically low ice coverage we have had this year," the U.S. Coast Guard Great Lakes said in a Facebook post.


In a press release, the Coast Guard provided three things to remember before heading out onto the icy lakes.

Take precautions, not chances

The risk of death from accidental immersion during cold weather seasons is higher than in warm seasons. The water is colder, and survival time is greatly diminished.

Dress for the water temperatures

Cold water lowers body heat dramatically faster than cold air. Even if you are not planning on entering the water, there is always the possibility of accidental immersion.

Bring communications equipment

Never go near the water without a VHF-FM radio or personal locator beacon, and always be sure to tell someone where you are going, when you expect to return and advise them of any changes in the plan. Every minute counts in a cold-water environment, and preparation may mean the difference between life and death.


Ice cover on the Great Lakes is well below average for the year. According to NOAA, as of mid-February, overall ice coverage on the Great Lakes is around 10.5%, about 20% lower than the historical average.

Lake Huron’s ice coverage is particularly below average this winter at around 14%. Historically, ice covers over 40% of Lake Huron by this point in the season.