Coast Guard warning people to stay off ice

Ice shanties belonging to seven people stranded on an ice floe are seen about 300 yards from Riley's Bay in Green Bay, Feb. 26, 2012.

The Coast Guard is issuing a warning Wednesday about increasingly warm temperatures that will increase the possibility of weakened ice across the Great Lakes region.

The combination of warmer temperatures and shifting winds has caused extremely hazardous ice conditions throughout the lakes and surrounding rivers, increasing the possibility of the remaining ice breaking apart.

"Ice conditions are rapidly changing," said Karl Willis, with the Coast Guard 9th District Command Center in Cleveland. "Warming temperatures and wind significantly affect ice strength and can lead to extremely hazardous conditions with a high probability for drifting pack ice."

Tuesday afternoon, search-and-rescue controllers with the 9th District Command Center diverted an air crew from Coast Guard Air Station Detroit, aboard a Dolphin helicopter, after receiving a report of four people trapped on the ice on Lake St. Clair near Lake St. Clair Metropark in Harrison Township, Mich.

A rescue crew from Coast Guard Station St. Clair Shores, Mich., and local agencies also responded.

Due to the shallow depth of water, local rescue crews were able to safely walk the people off the ice.

Monday, rescue crews from Coast Guard Station Duluth, Minn., and a local fire department were dispatched after receiving a report of 15-20 people who became adrift on an ice floe.

Prior to rescuers arriving on scene, it was reported that all persons had made it safely back to land by jumping back to shore before the ice floe drifted out of reach.

The Coast Guard warns people to never venture out on the ice alone and to take proper precautions before heading out on or near the water or the ice.

It is important for people to stay aware of their surroundings and stay on the lookout for changing conditions.

When venturing out, a person should think I.C.E. as a precaution:

Information - know the weather and ice conditions, know where you are going, and know how to call for help. Never go out alone.

Clothing - have the proper clothing to prevent hypothermia. Wear a waterproof exposure suit and a life jacket.

Equipment - have the proper equipment. Carry two ice picks or screwdrivers, in case you fall in. Use these items to dig into the ice and pull yourself out. They are more effective than bare hands. Carry a whistle or noise maker to alert people that you are in distress. Carry a cellular phone or marine band radio in a waterproof container, so that you can call for help if you come across trouble.

More ice safety information can be found in 'the Coast Guards "Think Twice with Ice" brochure.