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Thick Great Lakes ice thwarts ice breakers, delays shipping

The ice on the Great Lakes is so thick this year the Canadian Coast Guard says ice breakers are having trouble getting through.
In this Feb. 5 photo photo provided by the U.S. Coast Guard, a yardstick measures the thickness of some of the ice the crew of cutter Katmai Bay battles during ice-breaking operations in the Straits of Mackinac. The icebreaker Mackinaw maintains a shipping lane on the Great Lakes which are almost completely covered with ice for the first time since 1994. (Lt. Michael Patterson, U.S. Coast Guard/The Associated Press)

The ice on the Great Lakes is so thick this year the Canadian Coast Guard says ice breakers are having trouble getting through.

The superintendent of the Coast Guard operations centre for the central and arctic region reports that, in many areas, the ice is more than half a meter thick — and in some spots it is stacked up 1.5 meters thick.

“In some areas the flat ice is up to 28 inches thick. But that doesn't include ice that has been piled up with heavy ridges that can be 4- to 5-feet high and sometimes higher,” Andre Maillet said.

“So these are pretty extreme conditions for the Great Lakes, especially at this time of year.”

The Coast Guard is ramping up efforts to get the shipping season going, and will bring in extra ice breaking ships to help in the effort to clear passageways for ships.

However Maillet said it is expected the shipping season on the Great Lakes will be delayed.

“This is basically new for us,” Maillet said. “I know there is talk that they haven't seen these ice conditions since the 1970s. But for a lot of people who weren't around back then, the conditions are quite severe.”

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