Coast Guard crews train for dangerous cold weather, ice rescues - Dallas News | myFOXdfw.com

Coast Guard crews train for dangerous cold weather, ice rescues

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

In subzero weather like we'll soon be facing, falling into the lake could bring death in mere minutes. Knowing they can't afford a mistake, Chicago-based Coast Guardsmen say they practice, practice and then practice some more -- beginning with the layers of waterproof clothing they put on.

"You can see it's actually got a neck seal. It won't let water in anywhere. We wear two more layers under that, almost like a long underwear style that wicks the water away," Petty Officer 2nd Class John Palmer explains.

The layers proved their worth during Thursday's rescue off the beach at 75th Street. Two Coast Guardsman fell through the ice. If that happens in deeper water, each search and rescue team member is equipped with a pair of ice picks to pull themselves out.

Petty Officer Second Class John Palmer used to be stationed aboard the Coast Guard's Icebreaker Mackinaw. Last month, it honored a century-old tradition of delivering Christmas trees to Navy Pier, but immediately returned north. Within the last 24-hours, a Coast Guard spokesman said, the Mackinaw rescued three vessels trapped in ice in Northern Michigan, freeing five other boats that were also blocked by ice.

The Coast Guard has no icebreakers stationed south of Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, a spokesman said, in part because there's been virtually no ice at all for years now on southern Lake Michigan. That's changed dramatically this winter, but don't be fooled.

Ice has so far not been a problem for commercial shipping in the Chicago area, with most of southern Lake Michigan being open water. A spokesman for Navy Pier said cruise boats based there are operating normally, despite a report that one New Year's Eve dinner cruise was cancelled because of ice in the harbor.

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