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Tag Archive | "ice"

No ice is safe ice


 

Practice ice-safety measures while fishing, snowmobiling

 

With warmer temperatures for most of Michigan in the forecast this week, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) urges ice anglers and snowmobilers to remember: No ice is safe ice.

“With several days of warmer temperatures in the forecast this week, including the possibility of rainy days in the high 40s, we want to remind ice fishermen and snowmobilers that thawing will occur and that will definitely weaken ice,” said Lt. Andrew Turner, marine safety and education supervisor for the DNR Law Enforcement Division. “By following some guidelines on how ice looks and feels, you can avoid your day of ice fishing ending as a life-threatening incident.”

According to Turner, you can’t always tell the strength of ice simply by its look, its thickness, the temperature or whether or not it is covered with snow. Here are some quick things to look for when venturing on ice:

Clear ice that has a bluish tint is the strongest. Ice formed by melted and refrozen snow appears milky, and is very porous and weak.

Ice covered by snow always should be presumed unsafe. Snow acts like an insulating blanket and slows the freezing process. Ice under the snow will be thinner and weaker. A snowfall also can warm up and melt existing ice.

If there is slush on the ice, stay off. Slush ice is only about half as strong as clear ice and indicates the ice is no longer freezing from the bottom.

Turner said anglers should be especially cautious in areas where air temperatures have fluctuated. A warm spell may take several days to weaken the ice; however, when temperatures vary widely, causing the ice to thaw during the day and refreeze at night, the result is a weak, “spongy” or honeycombed ice that is unsafe, he said.

The DNR does not recommend the standard “inch-thickness” guide used by many anglers and snowmobilers to determine ice safety because ice seldom forms at a uniform rate.
“I personally would never recommend that you take a car or truck onto the ice,” Turner said. “But those are personal decisions. I would urge that anyone wear a life jacket, wear bright colors and take a cell phone when walking onto a frozen lake or river. Also, bring along a set of ice picks or ice claws, which you can find in most sporting goods shops.”

If you do break through, Turner offered the following tips:

Try to remain calm.

Don’t remove your winter clothing. Heavy clothes won’t drag you down, but instead can trap air to provide warmth and flotation. This is especially true with a snowmobile suit.

Turn in the water toward the direction you came from – that is probably the strongest ice.

If you have them, dig the points of the picks into the ice and, while vigorously kicking your feet, pull yourself onto the surface by sliding forward on the ice.

Roll away from the area of weak ice. Rolling on the ice will distribute your weight to help avoid breaking through again.

Get to shelter, heat, warm dry clothing and warm, non-alcoholic and non-caffeinated drinks.

Call 911 and seek medical attention if you feel disoriented, have uncontrollable shivering or have any other ill effects that may be symptoms of hypothermia (the life-threatening drop in the body’s core temperature).

 

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MDOT warns motorists, private plows of winter hazards


CAR-Fast-FactsA private snowplow pushes snow into a state highway, causing a public plow to crash and roll over, injuring the driver. Meanwhile, in another area a motorist disregards winter conditions, traveling too fast and crashes into the rear of a Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) plow, disabling it.

Those are just two cases of hazardous actions in winter resulting in crashes earlier this month in Michigan, and in both cases taking two winter maintenance vehicles out of commission.

“Slippery roads, reduced visibility, and excessive speeds greatly reduce the margin of error in winter driving,” said State Transportation Director Kirk T. Steudle. “We implore private plow operators and motorists to be extra cautious, and avoid doing anything that adds to the hazards of winter driving or roadway maintenance.”

Two main concerns are when residents and businesses pile snow at the ends of driveways along the highway shoulder, and when snow is pushed across the road, leaving snow or slush on the road surface.

The Michigan Vehicle Code prohibits depositing “snow, ice, or slush on any roadway or highway,” and “the obstruction of safety vision by removal or deposit of snow, ice, or slush.” This includes the end of driveways, where banked snow can reduce visibility for vehicles trying to enter the roadway. Leaving a trail of snow on the pavement while plowing across the road also can create an added hazard to unsuspecting motorists and to road maintenance personnel.

Motorists also should be particularly careful around winter maintenance snowplows and salt trucks. These large, powerful vehicles may be traveling at slower speeds than vehicles around them, and may be obscured by blowing snow.

“For your safety and the safety of our operators, it’s important to give snowplows a buffer to do their work,” Steudle said.

Some tips for motorists encountering snowplows:

• Snowplows have limited visibility and drivers cannot see directly behind their trucks;

• Snowplows often throw up clouds of snow behind them, reducing visibility for drivers following behind them;

• Motorists should never attempt to pass a moving snowplow on the right. With new wing plows and tow plows, the blade can clear the shoulder and the lane of travel simultaneously. Motorists attempting an illegal pass through a snow cloud on the right and/or shoulder of the road most likely won’t see the plow blade and run the risk of a serious crash; and

• MDOT snowplows throughout Michigan will be driving at 25 mph when applying salt, which helps keep more salt on the roadway driving lanes where it is most effective. Snowplows may travel at up to 45 mph when plowing only.

MDOT says: Drive like you want to make it home tonight.

 

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Winter storm and frigid temps hit area


An early January winter storm over the weekend and bitterly cold temperatures Monday through Wednesday made travel hazardous and caused hundreds of schools and businesses to close in West Michigan.

Besides ice and snow, we saw temperatures below zero, with wind chill as cold as 20 below. The ice crystals freezing in the air did cause a winter phenomenon not often seen here—a sun dog, or snow rainbow. It’s caused when the sun’s light refracts through ice crystals in the atmosphere. We received photos from several residents in the Cedar Springs/Sand Lake area that saw it Tuesday morning. (See photos above.)

Meteorologists are now predicting that we could get ½ to an 1” of rain on Friday, and with all the snow, it won’t have anywhere to go, and could freeze on Saturday, making travel difficult for Sunday morning.

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Fish, Ice, and Lake Oxygen


By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

 

It’s been a cold week. Snow arrived and icy roads have challenged drivers. One driver lost control at Ody Brook and slammed into a large spruce tree. It knocked the tree to a 60-degree angle. This Thanksgiving the driver can be thankful he was not injured. The tree probably will not survive. Meanwhile ice has formed on the ponds and protects the water world of nature niche life underneath.

Have you wondered why lakes don’t freeze from the bottom up? If they did, fish would be killed because lakes would freeze solid. Instead they freeze at the top and form an insolating layer that provides safe haven of aquatic wildlife for the winter.

Beavers construct a lodge they enter and exit from under the ice. Branches stored on the lake bottom are brought indoors for bark dinners. The top of beaver lodges rise above the ice allowing air exchange for breathing. A cozy lodge is insolated from extreme winter temperatures.

When fall arrives, air temperature cools and heats more rapidly than water. When cold air-cools surface water, the water sinks at 39-degrees F. At that temperature, water becomes its most compact and heaviest. It also holds the most oxygen possible at 39-degrees F. Because it is most dense, it sinks carrying oxygen to the depths of the lake.

During summer when sun warms water, a layer called a thermocline forms separating the upper and lower lake. The layer prevents easy movement between the lower (hypolimnion) and upper (epilimnion) lake water. Most plant life is above the thermocline, where sunlight reaches allowing photosynthesis to add oxygen to water during the day. At night, plants need oxygen and consume it for their needs. If algae and other plants are too abundant, they consume the oxygen and suffocate fish. This is known as summer kill.

Below the hypolimnion oxygen is slowly depleted because it is not replenished by photosynthesis or water mixing. Plants are few in the dark water, so they do not consume all the oxygen. Fish will often hang out at the thermocline, where they can cool down and slow metabolism so they require less oxygen and require less food.

In fall, the cold dense water holding oxygen sinks to the bottom of the lake oxygenating the entire lake. The movement stirs bottom sediments. I have seen Chrishaven Lake at the Christensen Nature Center look like someone stirred the lake with a giant stick in fall. The lake becomes filled with nutrient rich sediments. The activity destroys the thermocline and the lake becomes one even temperature body until the following summer when a new thermocline forms.

As water-cools below 39-degrees F, it begins to expand and does not sink. At 32-degrees F, the cold water freezes at the surface forming an insolating blanket. If windy, the blanket will not form smoothly. One can see if air was active or still by how smooth the ice layer is at the surface. Sun can penetrate ice allowing algae photosynthesis to continue. This plant growth will add oxygen to the water during the winter.

Sometimes when the snow layer on lakes is thin, light enters allowing algae to become abundant. When too abundant, the algae might consume all the oxygen during the long winter nights causing what anglers know as winter kill. At ice out in spring, dead fish float at the surface from winter suffocation. If the lake has streams flowing in, oxygen might be replenished. Fish will be found at these oxygen rich areas of the lake. A heavy snow blanket can prevent too much winter sun from entering the lake.

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at the odybrook@chartermi.net Ody Brook, 13010 Northland Dr, Cedar Springs, MI 49319-8433.

 

Posted in Ranger Steve's Nature NicheComments Off

Cracking Ice


By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

It is the time of year when people are thinking of getting on the ice. Polar bears hunt seals from the ice. We hunt fish or maybe just enjoy a walk on open ice of meandering streams or on lakes.

When I lived along the headwaters of the Mississippi River in the section that is classified as “Wild and Scenic,” the river froze thick in winter. We experienced below zero temperatures from about Christmas to mid February. Day temperatures were up to about zero and night temps were -20 F or -30 F except on cold nights when it dropped to -40 F.

I waited for solid ice before venturing out. Unfortunately, some are too anxious. A young father and vice-president of a local bank traveled by snow machine on a lake and never returned. It amazed me that when I would leave Minnesota for a Michigan Thanksgiving, Lake Bemidji was mostly open water. Four days later when I returned, people were driving pickup trucks on the ice to open water. Brave or foolhardy?

Where I lived, I hiked through knee to thigh deep snow to the wild section of the Mississippi. It was a peaceful joy to reach the river. The ice was bare and windswept. Walking was easy. Where shallow snow was present, I could follow fox tracks. The fox knew the easy travel routes. I lived along the first 35 miles of the river between Lake Itasca (the headwaters) and Bemidji. After Lake Bemidji, the river no longer qualified for the Wild and Scenic status. It does remain scenic and many areas still have wild character.

The woods were quiet in winter but red squirrels sometimes chattered at me, common ravens croaked over the forest. Black-capped chickadee, evening grosbeaks, purple finches, common redpolls among others kept me entertained at home feeders. The river was quieter except for occasional conversations it initiated.

The ice was friendly and talked to me. I wondered if it was sending mixed messages but it was not. I would hear loud cracks and snaps. I could peer down 2 to 3 feet into some cracks. The river said it was safe for walking. For that matter it would be safe driving but that section of the river was not accessible to motor vehicles. Not even snow machines accessed the area. That pleased my senses of sight, hearing, and smell. Wild places are best enjoyed when we allow nature to make the sounds, sights, smells, touch textures, and taste. Wild places for nature niches are wonderful for supporting wildlife and for our visits and experiences.

In the southern Michigan climate, ice is more treacherous than where it got cold. Respect nature’s whims for freezing and thawing. Learn to live with nature. The alternative is to die by natural events. Enjoy the coming long or short winter.

One last story. I wondered if the fox I was following was male or female. She eventually told me. She squatted to urinate between her tracks. A male would have lifted a leg to grasses along the riverbank. Read the landscape like a good book and behave appropriately for your safety and the health of wildlife that make it home.

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at the odybrook@chartermi.net Ody Brook, 13010 Northland Dr, Cedar Springs, MI 49319-8433.

 

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Eggs on ice


Tracy Skelonc, of Solon Township, sent us this photo last Friday, March 30, of their pear tree with ice on the blossoms and on the plastic Easter eggs hanging from it. Warm weather gave way to a cold front that brought freezing rain and hail to some areas in the early morning hours, and coated trees with a layer of ice. The ice quickly melted, however, when the sun finally came out.

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Weekly fishing report


From the Michigan DNR

Some of the river systems are experiencing high water levels after all the rain and wet snow this week. Skim ice is starting to appear on some of the inland lakes, especially in the northern sections of the state. It’s that time of year to start getting ready for ice fishing season.

Southwest Lower Peninsula Fishing Report (as of December 2):
St. Joseph River: Water levels are up so anglers could see more fish moving in. Try small spoons in orange and silver or blue and silver, rapalas, small spinners, or floating spawn and wax worms under a bobber.
Grand River at Grand Rapids: Has very good steelhead fishing. Those fishing off the wall are floating a wax worm under a bobber. Those fishing on the ladder side are floating spawn just off the bottom.
Grand River at Lansing: No word on steelhead in the Lansing area however fish are still being caught all the way up to the Webber Dam when floating spawn or wax worms.
Muskegon River: Is producing good numbers of steelhead below Croton Dam. Try casting small spoons, spinners, and rapalas or floating spawn and flies.

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