Ice Cutter and Crew Hard at work in Frigid Tangier Sound - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Ice Cutter and Crew Hard at work in Frigid Tangier Sound

Posted: Jan 03, 2018 1:59 PM Updated:

CRISFIELD, MD - When the temperatures falls and stay cold for quite some time, the captain and crew of the J. Millard Tawes Ice Cutter in Crisfield know they are going to be called into service.

Wednesday was the third consecutive day of work for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources boat that works to clear a path through the ice from Crisfield to Smith Island to ensure the daily boat traffic can get to and from the island.  Eddie Somers if the captain of the boat and has been since 1995.  Somers says the need for the ice cutter came a bit earlier than normal this winter, but with it being so cold recently, he knew the need was just around the corner.

"I mean, you kind of get a feel for it after a while.  You look at the temperatures, you look at the weather forecast, and usually if it goes down in the low teens then we'll start talking with the ferry captains," Somers said.

Somers says the goal is to cut the same track, or path, through the ice every day.  Some days, when the other boats are not even running, Somers and the crew will go out into the sound to do track maintenance, just to ensure the whole path does not freeze back over completely.

Wednesday, the ice was thickest close to land, around Crisfield and Smith Island.  In the middle of the Tangier Sound, it was clear calm waters.  The worst year, in recent memory, according to the crew, was 2015 when nearly the entire trip from Crisfield to Smith Island was frozen.  But whether there are just pockets of ice, or large areas that need to be cut through, Somers is always on the lookout.

"This boat sits up, I'm sitting up high and sometimes you can pick open water to go through.  And sometimes you can't  And you just look and hope that your judgement is on," Captain Somers said.

Wednesday morning, a fuel barge was following the ice cutter to Smith Island.  On the return trip to Crisfield, a tug boat was trailing the cutter.  The mail boats would then soon use the freshly cut track to make their way to Smith Island.  But when it is this cold, that path doesn't last long, and the cutter and crew know they will be back to work soon.

Somers says the cutter will not be out Thursday morning because of the snow storm but he and the crew will be back to work in the Tangier Sound early Friday morning.

 

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