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      Ice cutters clear the way for Great Lakes traffic

      T his historically cold winter has made it extremely difficult for ships traveling across the Great Lakes.

      M ore than 70 percent of the lakes are covered with ice and when our waterways freeze , it's the Coast Guard's job to clear the way for commerce.

      I ce breaking is a way of life for the 17 man crew of the Cutter Biscayne Bay.

      T hey have been out on the Great Lakes since early December and they don't plan on slowing down anytime soon.

      "I ce season just came fast and it hasn't stopped and we don't anticipated stopping until probably the middle to end of May," Mike Singleton, ice cutter crew member said.

      Friday they travel ed across the Straits of Mackinaw, then down through Lake Michigan.

      T hey will be clearing a path through the ice to escort ships , carrying natural resources . W hich can prove to be a difficult task.

      "We w ill have to back the ship up and go as fast as we can and ran the ice move up over the ice and break it and hopefully continue going ," Singleton said.

      T here are nine cutters constantly ramming through the ice on these lakes.

      A nd even though these shipping lanes look open for business , within hours they will close back up.

      "E ven though we break the tracks during the day they freeze up overnight ," Tom Przybyla, Bisbayne Bay Captain said. "T ough enough the ships can't through so we have to go back and loosen the tracks ."

      M aking sure the ships get through is essential to our economy. G reat Lakes shipping generates more than two billion dollars each year.

      A nd so far we're off to a slow start .

      B ut they hope their luck will change in the coming weeks , with spring-like weather hopefully on the horizon.