Spike in ice rescues attributed to poor conditions

Dangerous conditions on the ice
Dangerous conditions on the ice
Published: Feb. 8, 2023 at 4:54 PM CST
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DOOR COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) - “We’ve seen a spike in the number of ice rescues and it’s a combination of things,” Chief Deputy Pat McCarty with the Door County Sheriff’s Office said.

Warm water and air temperatures, plus high wind speeds work together to create dangerous cracks near shorelines.

“Up here we can have those cracks open up for miles and obviously that’s when people are on the ice stranded,” Conservation Warden with the Wisconsin DNR Jeff Lautenslager explained.

There’s another factor contributing to the uptick...

“People venturing out when the conditions just aren’t safe and people really pushing the limits later on in the winter as the ice conditions deteriorate,” McCarty said.

As we first alerted you, 11 people, including five children were rescued Monday after floating away from the Door County shoreline on a piece of ice.

The rescue operation included the Sheriff’s Department, DNR and U.S. Coast Guard.

Each time crews head out on an ice rescue it’s costly. Not just financially, but physically and mentally.

“It runs into the thousands of dollars,” McCarty told Action 2 News. “But money is no object when people’s lives are at risk.”

“You’re looking at the Coast Guard. They’re sending a helicopter over. There’s just a big fuel expense there because that’s coming over from Traverse City,” Lautenslager said. “It’s not necessarily always easy. They’re stressful, but they’re dangerous. We and everybody else on the ice risk falling through and drowning or hypothermia.”

Sturgeon spearing season opens Saturday. McCarty hopes spearers bring along potentially life-saving supplies.

“Let people know where you’re going to be. Carry a cellphone with you and carry some ice picks just in case you would have to self-rescue if you did fall through the ice.”

When people are on ice that isn't safe, taxpayers foot the bill. Rescuers may pay with their life.