WEST MICHIGAN -- A side effect of this windy, bitterly cold weather is heavy freezing spray on Lake Michigan. Freezing spray can create beautiful imagery as it coats rocks, lighthouses, and other surfaces along the shoreline. But it can also be deadly to inexperienced mariners and to vessels that are under-equipped to handle the extra weight caused by ice accumulation.
The National Weather Service has issued a Heavy Freezing Spray Warning for the entire West Michigan shoreline from St. Joseph to Pentwater until 10 PM this evening. (In fact, this warning encompasses almost the entire Lake Michigan shoreline. For more information, click here.)
Water temperatures on Lake Michigan are still in the upper 30s to near 40°. With strong winds carrying these relatively warm water droplets over sub-freezing surfaces (such as a rock, lighthouse, or the side of a boat), water will freeze on contact. With the current winds, waves, and temperatures, freezing spray can accumulate at a rate of up to once inch per hour.
In addition to it being a hazard to mariners, freezing spray can also be a nuisance to property owners along the shoreline. It can also create extremely slippery conditions along break-walls and other structures designed for pedestrians and outdoor enthusiasts who may be considering a trip to the Lake Michigan shoreline today.
So the best advice is this: avoid the Lake Michigan shoreline while this warning is in effect, and probably even for the next couple of days as waves will remain high on Lake Michigan until at least Thursday night.