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Officials warn 'stay off the ice' as safe ice in Michigan becomes increasingly rare

Frozen Ice
Posted at 3:46 PM, Feb 02, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-04 15:14:58-05

(WXYZ) — A tragedy and multiple close calls out on the ice this past week have officials asking residents to stay off the lakes.

Thursday the Oakland County Sheriff's Office Search and Rescue Team recovered the body of a 75-year-old woman who died in Hubbell Pond after seemingly trying to save her dog stuck out on the ice.

Earlier in the week the Oxford Fire Department posted on Facebook asking residents to stay off the lakes as their team rescued two teenagers who fell through the ice on Squaw Lakes.

One of the teens was completely submerged.

In light of the danger, our team spoke with Richard Rood, professor emeritus and climate scientist at the University of Michigan.

When asked if ice levels are below average for this time of year, Rood said, "way below average."

He provided our team with the below temperature graph from Omar Gates GLISA, University of Michigan.

Climate Temperature Data
Climate Temperature Data

The graph shows that from the 1950s to 1980, January temperatures were on average below freezing in Michigan, not as true in the last 30 years.

"In general the winter has been warm, that continues the trend of warming winters," said Rood.

According to Rood, the warmer air means warmer water which makes it even more difficult for thick ice to form, even when we get bursts of cold weather, because the warm water heats up the bottom of the ice.

Rood said situations where it's safe in Southeast Michigan to be on the ice are becoming quite rare, sudden immersion in water below just 60 degrees Fahrenheit can be deadly.

"To be in water that’s under ice or anywhere close to the temperature where things might freeze is very dangerous," said Rood. "Hypothermia can occur very quickly in those cases."