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Sheriff's Office warns of beautiful, but dangerous 'ice volcanoes'

"Currents and waves push water underneath the ice shelf and that water comes out through holes and cracks on the ice," explained Sgt. Knott.

WEST OLIVE, Mich. — Lake Michigan is a beautiful part of West Michigan any time of year, but with each season, comes its own set of dangers.

The Ottawa County Sheriff's Office and others along the lakeshore are warning people of the dangers of this body of water, no matter how beautiful or interesting it may look. Like an ice volcano.

"Ice volcanoes are very neat formations that occur out on Lake Michigan," said Sgt. Jon Knott with the Ottawa County Sheriff's Office Marine Division, "and they're beautiful to look at."

"However," he added, "they should only be viewed on solid, dry land because it is extremely dangerous to be walking out on the shelf ice on the lake."

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So what are ice volcanoes and how to they form?

"Currents and waves push water underneath the ice shelf and that water comes out through holes and cracks on the ice," explained Sgt. Knott, "and it creates a great formation and water shoots out through the middle of it."

Sgt. Knott even admitted that these formations are spectacular, but warned that they can also be very dangerous to get close to or to climb on. 

"One minute you could be walking on eight inches of ice, but the next you might be on one inch with snow pack on top of it," he said. "It's extremely dangerous and very hard to recover after you fall into that water."

Sgt. Knott said someone may not last very long in the water, especially at the current temperatures.

"We're going to make every effort to come out there and rescue you," he said, "but it's very difficult to rescue people off that shelf ice."

That's why Sgt. Knott also reminded visitors to stay off the icy piers no matter how beautiful they may look. 

"You can slip very easily," he said, "and once you go in the water, it's all slabs of ice, and you will get trapped underneath it."

Sgt. Knott said if you do plan on going to see Lake Michigan during these cold winter months, always dress warm, take proper precautions, and tell someone where you're going. 

"The ice is shifting constantly with the current so it's not like you're local pond," he said. "It's just really a place that you don't want to get in trouble at."

"Just always remember that no ice is safe ice," he added.


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