Great Lakes sees thick ice, busy ice breakers
Mike Simonson, Wisconsin Public Radio
With ice clogging the upper Great Lakes, some ships are stuck, another one shutdown for the winter, and then there's the little tug that could.
The Coast Guard at Sault St. Marie in eastern Lake Superior was busy yesterday. Dispatcher Mark Dobson couldn't talk much. He was on the radio with two ice breakers trying to free vessels. “It's that point in the year that everything's freezing in. So it's just a matter of wait and see who gets stuck and go get 'em. That's the kind of game we're playing.”
Another Coast Guard dispatcher at the Soo says they freed three ships Monday. He called this ice significantly worse than other years.
The Madeline Island Ferry shut down last Friday. Considering they didn't lay-off at all in 2012, Ferry vice-President Robin Trinco-Russell says it's an early shutdown. She says ice on the two miles of Lake Superior to Bayfield is up to a foot thick. Conditions, she says, are severe. “You can barely see the mainland. Right now I can't see the mainland. It's blowing snow. It looks like the Arctic.”
Duluth-Superior tugboat Captain Mike Ojaard says the ice is the worst he's seen and keeps getting thicker. “One ice chunk touches another and it just keeps building down: some areas it's as much as five feet thick. It's the toughest winter that I've seen in my 68 years.”
Ojaard says it's been a long, hard couple of months. “It's a tough winter; we've been breaking ice since the fifth of November,” he said. “It's not over yet. Make sure the public keeps us in mind, and in their prayers.”
The Soo Locks close January 15th, so Ojaard and the Coast Guard still have a couple more weeks of breaking ice.