Drowning at Indiana Dunes Highlights the Deadly Dangers of the Ice Shelf | Chicago News


Ice platform at 31st Street Beach. (Patty Wetli / WTTW News)

As enchanting as the ice of Lake Michigan may seem, it is undeniably dangerous, as evidenced this week by the suspected drowning of an Indianapolis man who fell into the water off the ice floe at Dunes National Park. Indiana Monday.

Bryce Dunfee, 22, was walking on the ice with a group of friends when the tray started to crack and he slid into the lake. Strong waves and shifting ice hampered rescue efforts by emergency responders and a salvage search for Dunfee is still underway, according to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources llaw enforcement division.

Earlier in February, the Chicago Fire Department was called to remove a man from the pack ice at the South Lake and were able to bring him safely to shore. “The result could easily have been a tragedy,” officials said.

Although both incidents involved people unfamiliar with the normal contours of the shore, the pack ice can fool even lakeside regulars. It can grow far from shore, making it difficult to tell where a beach ends and ice begins, said Brett Borchardt, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Chicago office.

Pack ice is a Great Lakes phenomenon that occurs when floating chunks of ice are pushed ashore by waves and become stuck together. The pile builds up and wave spray can add even more ice, Borchardt said. It grows every year, but its extent varies depending on the cold temperature and the duration of frost, he added.

Although it may look like a solid sheet, the pack ice is actually made up of chunks and is full of cracks and crevices, which are often hidden by a layer of snow, he said.

“There are weaknesses throughout the shelf,” Borchardt said. “You never know how thin it is.”

The ice floe falls are particularly dangerous given not only the freezing water but also the difficulty in getting out as people try to hold on to the slippery ice, he said.

“Never go out,” advised Borchardt.

Contact Patty Wetli: @pattywetli | (773) 509-5623 | [email protected]


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