Coast Guard and Winter Weather: Breaking The Ice

> The ice breaking season is now underway on the Great Lakes. The Coast Guard Cutter Alder, homeported in Duluth, Minn., began its first ice-breaking mission Dec. 16, 2009. The 225-foot seagoing buoy tender is just one eight Coast Guard ice-breaking assets homeported in the Great Lakes region.

(Right: Coast Guard Cutter Alder breaks ice near Duluth, Minn., on Dec. 16, 2009. U.S. Coast Guard photo)

In addition to the cutters calling the Great Lakes home, Coast Guard Cutter Penobscot Bay, homeported in Bayonne, N.J., will be temporarily ported in Cleveland this season to assist in ice-breaking efforts.

Because of the drop in temperatures near the Duluth area, Alder was the first of the Great Lakes cutters to break ice this season. As the bitter weather travels throughout the region, more and more Great Lakes Coast Guard assets will be aiding in the yearly effort to maintain navigable waterways and facilitate Great Lakes commerce.

(Left: Coast Guard Cutter Penobscot Bay arrives in Cleveland on Dec. 22, 2009. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Brandon Blackwell)

During the ice-breaking season, the Coast Guard conducts two major operations: Taconite and Coal Shovel. Operation Taconite, under the control of U.S. Coast Guard Sector Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., encompasses Lake Superior, the St. Marys River, the Straits of Mackinac, Lake Michigan and northern Lake Huron.

Coal Shovel, under the control of Coast Guard Sector Detroit, encompasses southern Lake Huron, St. Clair/Detroit River systems, and Lakes Erie and Ontario, including the St. Lawrence Seaway.

Based on ice conditions, assets are dedicated to specific areas in coordination with our international partners and commercial icebreaking services.

(Right: Coast Guard Cutter Alder breaks ice near Duluth, Minn., on Dec. 16, 2009. U.S. Coast Guard photo)