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Dangerous ice shelves blanket Great Lakes shoreline


It’s one long ice shelf as far as the eye can see, off the shores of Kincardine, Ont.

“Enjoy it, look at it, take pictures of it, but it’s not something to play on,” says Const. Kevin Martin of the South Bruce OPP.

Martin says officers in his jurisdiction have gotten several reports of people out walking on the ice shelves this winter, which cover the shores of most Great Lakes communities on either side of the border, and can be as much as six to 10 feet deep at their peak.

“That’s the most dangerous part, because these mounds could be hollow underneath. The peaks of them is where the ice is likely to be the thinnest. So, if you fall in, you’ve now got a six feet or more reach to the peak. It’s virtually impossible to climb out on your own,” says Dave Benjamin, director with the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, based out of Illinois.

“For emergency responders, there is moving water underneath these shelves. So when you fall through these holes you fall into that moving water, you’re not where the hole is,” said Martin. “Seconds count, you need help right away and we just can’t find you that fast. So, please, please, don’t walk on that shelf ice.”

Last year, 98 people drowned in the Great Lakes and since 2010, 1,044 have lost their lives, according to Benjamin. While most of those deaths happen in the summer months, winter water deaths can happen as well.

“If you fall through that ice and you get pulled by that current there is no rescue. It’s unfortunately game over,” says Benjamin.

If there is one good thing about the ice shelves, it’s that they are protecting the Great Lakes shoreline from erosion this winter. The past few years, shorelines were unprotected and got battered by high, raging water.

“With the high levels coming down, and the ice shelves building up, we are going to see some beach restoration occur naturally,” says Benjamin.

So, appreciate the ice shelves for what they’re doing, but don’t venture out onto them, say both Martin and Benjamin. Top Stories

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