Great Lakes ice formation at 50-year low through January

Canadian Coast Guard cutter Samuel Risley upbound on St. Clair River ( file photo by Dave Dentinger)

The Canadian Coast Guard says ice formation across the Great Lakes was at its lowest in 50 years at the end of January.

Central Region Superintendent of Icebreaking, Escorts and Flood Control Program, Isabelle Pelchat said we’re experiencing a very light ice year and before last week, ice accumulation was only at two per cent.

“We had a very mild winter since the beginning and ice formation has been very slow, especially on Lake Huron, so at this time we don’t see a lot of ice formation,” said Pelchat. “We’re just starting. Within the last week we had a cold front passing through the region, so right now, for all the Great Lakes, we’re at about 16 per cent.”

While ice breaking operations were limited last month, Pelchat expects it will change very soon.

“We’re not as ‘on demand’ as we are usually at this time of the year. We can see that the activities are going to start this week. We already had one service provided with a ship that got beset on Lake St. Clair, so I think the operation will start this week for sure.”

Pelchat said there’s always work to do on an icebreaker.

“They’re on search and rescue standby, they can answer any environmental call, of course they do a lot of training at this time of year. When it’s quiet like that, we do a lot of familiarization with the employees, so it’s always busy, that’s for sure.”

Pelchat reminds anyone thinking about venturing out onto ice to stay cautious, especially if there’s an icebreaker nearby.