Lake Superior may freeze over completely for the first time since 1996

Daily News Article   —   Posted on February 11, 2014

(from UPI News Agency) MINNEAPOLIS (UPI) — Great Lakes shipping companies are anticipating rough conditions this spring due to extensive icing over this year, a trade group executive said.

“Lake Superior is likely going to ice over completely. In all probability, that means it’s going to be a very tough breakout in March,” said Glen Nekvasil, vice president of the Lake Carriers’ Association.

Lake Superior was estimated to be 93.5 percent ice bound as of Friday. If it freezes over completely, it would be the first time that has happened since 1996, the (Minneapolis) Star-Tribune reported Saturday.  [George Leshkevich with the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory said that coverage sways from year to year, but “back in the ’70s and ’80s, there was fairly good ice cover every year.”]

The Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, which monitors lake conditions, said 79.6 percent of the five Great Lakes were iced over. A record 94.7 percent of the lakes were frozen over in 1979.

The Soo Locks at St. Marie, Minn., [Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan*] are scheduled to open March 25, signaling the start of the Great Lakes shipping season. [*UPI News had it wrong and we missed the mistake – thanks to Michigan teacher Elizabeth C. for letting us know:)]

“But right now we’re not getting any relief … it’s a good, old-fashioned winter,” said Mark Barker, president of the Interlake Steamship Co., which ships raw materials such as coal and limestone.


The ice cutters have been making clear paths through St. Mary’s River and the Soo Locks as blocks of ice forms in the Great Lakes. The Bristol Bay (seen here in December) is one being used to try and keep the channels open.

At some point, the Coast Guard will try to plow a path with ice-breakers, but a prolonged deep freeze means that, come spring thaw, the Coast Guard will be challenged to keep up.

“In this case, we have heavy ice over multiple locations. That takes those [Coast Guard] assets and spreads them thin,” Barker said.

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Soo Locks (A), Sault Ste. Marie, MI

The Soo Locks:

Shipping on the Great Lakes: