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PORT CLINTON, OH — Authorities say nearly four dozen fishermen trapped on an ice floe in Lake Erie have been rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard and local emergency personnel in northern Ohio.
The Coast Guard and Ottawa County Sheriff's Office began receiving reports around 8:30 a.m. Saturday that a large number of people had become stuck on an ice floe that had broken off from the main ice pack connected to Catawba Island.
Coast Guard Petty Officer Brian McCrum says the Coast Guard launched helicopters out of Detroit, and along with local rescue personnel, sent airboats to retrieve the stranded fishermen. McCrum says 46 people were rescued, including two fishermen who were hoisted by helicopter and received medical assessments.
According to Storm Center 7 meteorologists Jesse Maag and Kirstie Zontini, above average temperatures have sped up the melting process across the icy Great Lakes. While ice is never 100% safe, 4” or greater is the recommended thickness for on foot activities such as ice fishing. Around 6” of ice or more is recommended for snowmobiles and four wheelers. There are several ways to safely check the thickness of ice. Some techniques include an ice auger or more commonly a cordless power drill.
Additionally, temperature fluctuations can cause the ice to weaken and eventually it breaks apart. According to the Great Lakes Environmental Research Lab, Lake Erie is still about 90 percent covered in ice but the cracks are very visible on satellite imagery. Big swings in temperature observed up near Cleveland throughout the month of February and the warmer than normal temperatures this week will continue to weaken the ice.