'Unprecedented' ice strands freighter on Muskegon Lake

8:14 PM, Dec 16, 2013   |    comments
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  • An ice breaking boat entered Muskegon Lake Monday.
  • The freighter is delivering coal to Consumers Energy's B.C. Cobb plant in Muskegon.
    

MUSKEGON, Mich. (WZZM) -- Thick ice on Muskegon Lake is taking many by surprise.

Monday morning, the ice cover put on hold the coal freighter Buffalo's plans to dock at the B.C. Cobb plant. The ship and 17,000 tons of coal were stuck in the ice and 2,000 feet short of the power plant's dock.

"Normally Muskegon Lake does not freeze up like this until after the first of the year," said Phil Andrie, President of Andrie Specialized marine equipment, which was called to break up ice and free the freighter. "It looks like we are about one month early."

The Muskegon tug Meredith Ashton rushed into service with its 2,100 horse power twin diesel engines. The ice took the freighter's crew by surprise.

"Unprecedented that is December 16 and we are stuck in virgin ice here on Muskegon Lake. Yes, it is unprecedented for Muskegon," said Andrie.

The Meredith Ashton muscled through the ice, allowing the freighter to reach its destination. The movement on the lake will compromise the ice even distances from where the tug and freighter were working.

Deputy Todd Dunham with the Muskegon County Sheriff's Department has already heard of anglers falling in this season. "We had a few people fall in up on White Lake, go through the ice." He wants to keep that from happening on Muskegon Lake too. "This ice is not safe at this time."

There are still two more coal deliveries scheduled for the Cobb plant in Muskegon before the end of the shipping season. They should happen on December 27 and January 1. Consumers Energy says those dates are subject to change because of the weather.

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