ST. IGNACE, Mich. (Courtesy MDOT)- Without binoculars it would be tough to see from shore the large chunks and spears of ice that sometimes plummet from the towers and cables of the Mackinac Bridge, so it can be hard to understand why the bridge must be closed for falling ice events.
A new video released by the Mackinac Bridge Authority (MBA) and the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) includes video footage and still images of kitchen table-sized sheets and 20-foot-long spears of ice shattering on the bridge deck to help explain why the bridge must be closed when ice is falling.
Thankfully, no injuries have been reported due to falling ice on the Mackinac Bridge, though the potential is real. MBA Maintenance Supervisor Joe Shampine has been in a vehicle struck by falling ice, so he’s seen up close the damage it can do.
“Seeing all these big chunks come down… it could hurt somebody really bad, if not kill,” Shampine said. “We see it all the time. It comes down and it’ll crush you. It’ll kill you.”
That hazard is what prompts the authority to close the bridge while ice is falling, most dangerous when it falls from 300 feet up near the top of the towers and cables.
“In the case of falling ice, it is so dangerous, that it’s cut and dried that we have to close the bridge,” said MBA Bridge Director Kim Nowack. “We know it’s a big inconvenience and we absolutely hate to close the bridge. We only do it in extreme circumstances.”
Mackinac County 911, using its RAVE Alert System, sends updates and information from the MBA to users’ cell phones any time the bridge has a partial or full closure due to weather or other conditions. Messages also will be sent when a full closure is reduced to a partial closure or when the bridge reopens to all traffic. To sign up, text “MacBridge” to 67283.
Details and updates are also available around the clock at www.MackinacBridge.org/Conditions. Updates are posted on the Mackinac Bridge’s Twitter page, @MackinacBridge, as well as on freeway dynamic message signs.