"Due to the weather this year, we've had colder temperatures and less wind. We've seen more ice this year than the past two years," Jordan Hess of the US Coast Guard said.
Heather Stewart, Operations Manager at Lake Champlain Ferries, says this is a good old fashioned North Country winter, something we haven't seen recently. The ferries have been affected.
"We had slower going about a week ago because the ice wasn't set up," Stewart said.
The slightly longer crossing times occurred on the Grand Isle to Plattsburgh route, where ferries had to use special maneuvers to get through the ice. Things are back closer to normal now. With three boats constantly running there, a total freeze up is unlikely.
"For the Charlotte crossing it’s more probable because it’s a single boat breaking ice but we hope not, so far so good,” she said.
The ferries still running are well equipped for the conditions. "We have the reinforced hull, stainless steel prop, and a nice gear, German gear. It’s very heavy duty," she said.
There are ebbs and flows to the ice extent on Lake Champlain. Just over the past couple of days a northerly wind has chewed away out some of the thin ice that formed on the broad lake. Back in the 1800 and early 1900s, when the lake froze almost every year, ice extent was measured by visual observation only. Now it's tracked by satellites high above, but satellites aren't enough.
"We'll go to different areas of the lake to look at the ice, view the ice conditions and conduct training in different areas,” Hess said.
Sometimes it's more than training.
"This year we've seen about three ice search and rescue cases, that's right around average for what we see this time of year,” he said.
Hess says no ice is safe ice, so to prevent more rescues the Coast Guard has advice for anyone heading out on the lake.
"Never go out on the ice alone, and always let a friend or family members ashore know their plan, when they plan to go out, when they plan to go back,” Hess said.
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