MARQUETTE, Mich (WZMQ) – Officials say water temperatures of even 70 degrees can cause hypothermia. Lake Superior roars with an area of over 20 million acres and a volume of almost 3,000 cubic miles, it’s big enough to take in all the other Great Lakes, making it a monster to search through if an emergency arises. “The biggest thing especially this time of year is the water temperature and it never fluctuates much but your gonna become hypothermic within ten minutes”, said CPL. Brian Kurin with the Marquette County Special Operations Dive Team.
On Wednesday morning, the team was performing a training exercise at Teal Lake in Negaunee, where they practice maintaining communication with the surface while heading under 8 inches of ice. “We try to do this every year kind of weather permitting”, said CPL. Kurin.
Hypothermia is a deadly concern for anyone treading through Superior. At temperatures in the lakes range, death may occur in 30-90 minutes, and CPL Kurin says it makes preparation a crucial part of the dive to complete. “Yep, it’s all about the time. Lake Superior gets pretty miserable this time of year and if it’s not frozen, there are big waves out there. You know if there are waves out there, we have no ability to get in the water”, continued Kurin.
The closest that Superior has ever come to freezing over was in 1996. According to the Great Lakes Guide, the most recent time was in 2014, with 92% of the lake iced over. “Today we go down and safety is number one it’s paramount and we’re just gonna make sure that we follow our safety procedures”, said Sgt. Errol Lukkarinen.
From the oxygen tanks and masks to the fins and the ropes, the dive team is in a full suit-up for any rescue and also for their own safety. Training for these dives isn’t done by all law enforcement, some of these people are volunteer divers that help out and are on call for rescues.