Breaking The Ice: State Icebreaker Working To Clear Channels In Kent Narrows

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Alex DeMetrick has been a general assignment reporter with WJZ...
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KENT NARROWS, Md. (WJZ) — The worst ice to hit Maryland is on the bay and its tributaries. In some places, ice hasn’t been this thick in years.

Alex DeMetrick reports from a state icebreaker, trying to bust it all up.

This kind of hard freeze hasn’t gripped the bay and its waterways in at least five years.

“We’re talking about 10 inches of ice on this side,” said Ben Gillis, A.V. Sandusky engineer.

Which makes breaking ice by the A.V. Sandusky and its crew a slow, grinding job.

Operated by the Department of Natural Resources, it’s working to clear channels in the Kent Narrows. Keeping them open is critical in emergencies.

“In case we get a waterman or somebody that has a problem, we can at least get through in a decent amount of time,” Gillis said.

Up on the bridge, heaters make it T-shirt weather. So does the job’s pressures.

“‘Cause sometimes you get yourself in a jam and it’s hard to get out,” said Shawn Orr, A.V. Sandusky captain.

Especially in tight quarters like this waterman’s marina.

“Once there’s a path, the ice just kind of takes you where it wants you to go. Like I’m hard left now and still going right,” Orr said.

It’s a job that takes fine judgment and brute strength. Even so, ice is so thick, punching out meant backing up to get another running start.

“When the tides come through here it’s locked up the ice. It flowed in and it just froze up and locked up, so it’s real hard now,” said Gillis.

Even though temperatures may warm later in the week, the ice is expected to hold on. And while it does, ice breaking will continue going on.

DNR has a second icebreaker working further south in the bay. The Coast Guard is also breaking ice to keep the C&D Canal open at the bay’s north end.

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