In a statement, authorities in Traverse City said more than 60 people became stranded when cracks appeared in the ice, which broke away as they fished on Lake Michigan.
A combination of high winds and an incoming storm system allowed the ice floes to break off from the shore of Sturgeon Bay, in northeastern Wisconsin, stranding the people who were fishing.
According to authorities, “Ice continued to crack into smaller sections throughout the crews' time on scene" of the rescue, which took four hours to complete.
Ice boats and helicopters were used to bring the people to safety, in addition to rescue swimmers.
Commander Bryan Swinteck, search and rescue coordinator for Coast Guard Sector Lake Michigan, told the Associated Press afterwards that the rescue was a “success” for cross-agency collaboration.
“[And] a direct result of effective training and the long standing and close relationships with our agency partners in the greater Sturgeon Bay Area,” the commander said.
Coast Guard Ice Rescue teams from Sturgeon Bay, Coast Guard Cutter Mobile Bay, two helicopters from Traverse City, Michigan, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, and local government agencies assisted in the rescue.
The Coast Guard thanked those who took part on Facebook, and warned of the dangers posed by ice.
“No ice is 'safe' ice,” said the Coast Guard. “Always ensure you check the weather before heading out, use the buddy system, and wear your lifejacket. Ensure you have a reliable form of communication such as a radio as well.”
Ice floes are a common occurrence on Lake Michigan in the winter, when temperatures drop below freezing.
Additional reporting by the Associated Press
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