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The big ice break-out begins on Lake Superior
The Coast Guard will begin breaking ice in the Duluth/Superior port this week in preparation for shipping traffic later this month. Brad Phenow reports.
The 225-foot Coast Guard Cutter Alder has been laid up for the past six weeks getting prepped for ice breaking operations. The record setting cold winter is going to make this year’s ice breaking much more difficult. Mark Gill is the Director of Vessel Traffic Services for the Coast Guard at Sault St. Marie, Michigan. He says this week is focused on making the initial fracture.
“The goal this week is to try to get her slowly out of her home port, and draw some track inside the port.”
He says this is the most ice in 25 years.
“On the Duluth side of the harbor we’re seeing anywhere from 34 to 36 inches of plate ice. On the Superior side we’ve got reports that exceed 42 inches of plate ice.”
He says with that much thickness, they may be calling for back up.
“It’s probably a reasonable expectation that heavier ice breakers may be needed to help out on the west end.”
Along with additional Coast Guard ice breakers Gill says that there will be commercial tugs as well so boats can be moving by March 17th. Heritage Marine Captain Mike Ojard is one of those Twin Ports commercial tug operators. He says getting the tugs off the dock is going to be a task in itself.
“On the outside of our tugs we have up to four foot plus of solid ice, and we have to be able to get through that.”
Ojard says it’s going to take days just to get the ice off the boat.
“We won’t be able to just start the engines and melt some ice with the wheels. It’s going to be chainsaws, and ice augers, in order to get our ice heaters down, and be able to make the ships float once again.”
The Soo Locks are set to open March 25th. Gill says they have already received escort requests for when the vessels begin to leave the harbor.
“We’re going to actually have to provide escorts as vessels cross the lake.”
Gill says it’s important for recreational users to avoid the ice breakers, and the shipping lanes they are opening.
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