Aside from ice already floating on the lakes, several factors are hampering crews' efforts to clear the way for commercial ships, including some chunks up to 8-feet thick and stiff winds. Once crews are able to create an open-water path, Read said the wind closes it by pushing the ice together.
"The commercial shipping season is definitely slowed down, almost to a halt," he said.
"There is warmer weather coming, so we hope that helps."
Depending on the ice's thickness, icebreaking ships only can travel at speeds ranging from 3 to 10 knots, which make for long days for its crews, Read said. One ship, the Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw, now is working to get two commercial ships through the locks toward the end of the week at the earliest.
|A view of frozen Lake Michigan from the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Katmai Bay on Friday.|