Grand Traverse Bay freezes over for first time since 2015

Grand Traverse Bay freezes over for first time since 2015

GRAND TRAVERSE COUNTY, Mich. (WPBN/WGTU) -- On Tuesday, The Watershed Center declared the bay frozen over, which hasn't happened for the past two winters.

The ice goes all the way past Power Island, which is how The Watershed Center makes the determination that it's frozen over.

“Really the last two weeks we've almost doubled the amount of ice on the Great Lakes,” said Lt. Ted Borny with Coast Guard Air Station Traverse City.

Consistently cold temperatures along with calm conditions caused the bay to freeze over in a matter of days.

“We've got approximately 70% coverage on all of the Great Lakes and 53% coverage here on Lake Michigan,” said Borny.

A view from a Coast Guard helicopter shows how suddenly it can go from ice to open water.

“You really don't know what kind of ice you're getting onto,” said Borny. “Some areas could be thicker than others and even within a matter of feet that can change dramatically so without doing a good test of the ice it could be really dangerous even in some places that may seem safe.”

The Coast Guard reminds people to think of the acronym I.C.E. before heading out. Information, clothing, and equipment are what you need to remember, saying preparation in those areas is key.

“It's really important to know the conditions before you go out,” said Borny. “Going out on the ice can be a great recreational activity however it comes with a lot of potential dangers.”

Borny says to let someone know where you’re going, wear bright and warm clothing, but perhaps most important is a sound or signaling device.

“Since December 2017 we’ve had more than 40 ice rescue cases in the Coast Guard and some of our greatest success has been when people have had noise and signaling devices that were able to track the Coast Guard’s attention,” said Borny.

It's less common for the bay to freeze over than it used to be, according to The Watershed Center since 1990 it only happens about 30 percent of the time. But a century ago, it was about 90 percent of winters.

The Watershed Center will continue to monitor conditions on the bay, but urges caution on all bodies of water, including East and West Bay.

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