Busting through winter's grasp on Lake Superior

Coast Guard cutter ships break up ice to reconnect Duluth to the ocean

The U.S. Coast Guard cutter Hollyhock is on a mission to break up ice and clear a path for other ships near Duluth's harbor. The annual ice-breaking ritual is a sure sign of spring.

“We’re kind of starting to see those warmer temperatures,” said Lieutenant Commander Stephen Brickey on the Hollyhock. “It gets down below freezing overnight, so it refreezes. So what you’re seeing is a lot of brash ice that we’ve previously broken up then it freezes back together.”

Brickey said many ships aren’t capable of getting through the ice themselves and there have been occasions where the crew has had to break out vessels stuck on the lake.

Lake Superior ice cover is currently running close to seasonal averages for April 1 at around 20 percent. Most of the ice is packed near shore, with the majority of the lake now open water. Ice cover usually declines rapidly through the month of April to less than 5 percent by May 1.

Lake Superior ice cover
Lake Superior ice cover.

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