With each week bringing more arctic temperatures, the Great Lakes are nearly 90 percent frozen. But the test of just how solid the ice might be came Monday when a small plane was forced to make an emergency landing.
As of Thursday, ice cover extended across 88 percent, according to the federal government's Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory in Ann Arbor. The last time the lakes came this close was in 1994, when 94 percent of the surface was frozen.
While the ice might be a sticking point for cargo ships, it was a boon for a plane Monday when its single engine quit, according to MLive.
This single-engine plane landed two miles from Michigan's Mackinac Island on Lake Huron after it experienced an engine failure. (Image source: WWTV-WWUP)
The plane, carrying six passengers and one pilot, landed safely in the morning on Lake Huron between St. Ignace and Mackinac Island. Lt. Joe Shler with the Michigan State Police told MLive no one was injured and the plane was not damaged in the landing.
Shler recalled a passenger saying the ice was "softer than on the runway," MLive reported.
Watch WWTV-WWUP's report about the landing:
In addition to being helpful in an emergency situation this week, the lake ice has other benefits as well.
In this Jan. 9, 2014 photo provided by the U.S. Coast Guard a convoy of Great Lakes cargo ships line up to follow an icebreaker on the St. Marys River, which links Lakes Superior and Huron. As of Feb. 13, 88 percent of the Great Lakes surface was frozen, according to the federal government�s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory in Ann Arbor. (AP/Lt. David Lieberman)
By limiting evaporation, it may help replenish lake water levels — a process that began last year after a record-breaking slump dating to the late 1990s. Also getting relief are cities along the lakes that have been pummeled with lake-effect snow, which happens when cold air masses suck up moisture from open waters and dump it over land. Heavy ice can also protect fish eggs from predators, and it has delighted photographers, ice anglers and daredevil snowmobilers.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.