Ice Cutter Brought in to Break Up Lake Michigan

By Dick Johnson
|  Wednesday, Feb 12, 2014  |  Updated 11:53 PM CDT
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It's the first time in several years the Biscayne Bay ice cutter has traveled this far south to help Lake Michigan boats. Dick Johnson reports.

It's the first time in several years the Biscayne Bay ice cutter has traveled this far south to help Lake Michigan boats. Dick Johnson reports.

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A season full of subzero temperatures has left Lake Michigan covered with a thick sheet of ice.

The U.S. Coast Guard brought in one of its most powerful tools to help clear the waterway.

It's the first time in several years the Biscayne Bay ice cutter has traveled this far south.

"It's the worst winter we've seen in 25 years and we've been extremely busy," Biscayne Bay Lt. Thomas Przybyla said.

The ice cutter typically works with waterways in the Straits of Mackinac, where the thick ice is more common.

The Biscayne Bay uses a special technique to break through the ice.

"We'll back up about three ship lengths, and then we'll go as fast as we can and we'll come up over the ice and continue on," chief boatswains mate Mike Singleton said.

On Tuesday, the ice breaker helped a 700-foot freighter trying to get to Burns Harbor.

"We can drive through the ice and create a nice track for them to follow us," Przybyla said.

On Wednesday afternoon, a pathway was being created for a tug and barge. The Biscayne Bay is able to project high-pressure air to create air circulation around a ship.

The ice cutter's presence is a welcome sight for the ships it is helping. A job that would take nine hours to complete in the winter has been taking up to 17 hours because of the extremely icy conditions.

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