Calls prompt ice shelf warning

2014-02-10T14:12:00Z 2014-02-10T14:16:08Z Calls prompt ice shelf warningContributed by Michigan City Police
February 10, 2014 2:12 pm  • 

MICHIGAN CITY | The Michigan City Police have received numerous calls over the weekend of not only people going way out onto the ice shelves at Washington Park walking, but taking children with sleds.

Shelf ice can be beautiful to look at but very deadly to walk on!

Due to the recent frigid and then warming temperatures, the expanses of ice at Washington Park and the entire lakeshore could collapse extremely quick breaking off without warning possibly causing injury or death.

Shelf ice is just what it sounds like - a shelf of ice over the water. The formation of the shelf begins with a frozen beach. After the beach freezes, a small ridge, or ice foot, usually forms near the water's edge.

Ice that is floating on Lake Michigan gets blown against the shoreline. The strong winter winds and waves push the pieces of ice against the ice foot, creating piles of ice. The piles freeze together, forming abstract sculptures along the shore. The shelf sometimes extends hundreds of feet offshore.

Though the shelf of ice looks solid, it is not. Air pockets and unfrozen areas make the ice unstable and unsafe to walk on. When the shelf ice is covered with snow, it is even more deceiving. The snow cover gives the appearance of a uniform surface.

The water under the ice is, of course, extremely cold. Depending on the thickness and snow cover, very little light may penetrate the ice. A person applying even a small amount of weight on the shelf ice can easily fall through and into frigid water that can quickly kill. If you fall through, hypothermia will rapidly set in and survival is unlikely. The lighthouse pier is ice covered and not plowed or salted. Walking or going out to take photographs can lead to one slipping and falling off the pier.

Walking on the ice shelf and the pier is not illegal and not against the law however the Michigan City Police strongly urge all individuals to stay off of any portion of the ice shelf and pier as they can again be beautiful to look at but deadly to walk on.

As always if you have any questions or concerns please contact Sgt. Chris Yagelski 873-1461 ext. #333 or email

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