It’s a glacier out there: Waters off Mass. are freezing solid
In the wake of a nearly seven-day deep freeze, the Coast Guard has been busy breaking up ice off the shores of Hingham, Weymouth, and Winthrop, according to Coast Guard officials.
Chief Petty Officer Anthony Kaminski, the officer in charge of the Pendant, a 65-foot harbor tug ice breaker, said they cleared ice along the Fore River in Weymouth, the Back River in Hingham, and behind Logan Airport. The work began on New Year’s Eve and continued Tuesday morning, he said.
“Looks like we’ll be doing this all winter,” Coast Guard spokesman Petty Officer Andrew Barresi said.
As more coastal communities in Eastern Massachusetts are seeing ice form along their shorelines, Coast Guard officials said they’re requesting additional ice-cutting vessels be brought to the Boston area to help keep harbors and waterways clear.
The mercury dipped to the single digits in many areas along the Massachusetts coast, including Hyannis, where the low temperature was 2 degrees, according to the National Weather Service. Forecasters say after a blast of snow Thursday the bone-chilling temperatures will return Friday night and last through the weekend.
Many local harbormasters along the coast of Cape Cod reported icy conditions Tuesday morning.
“Stage Harbor into Nantucket Sound is frozen solid; we can’t get any boats into that,” Chatham Harbormaster Stuart Smith said.
A year-round fishing fleet normally operates out of Chatham’s harbors, but Smith said half of them are stuck in place.
“The Coast Guard has been talking about bringing a small tug boat in to break some ice, but the problem is, when we have these west winds, the ice just piles up in Nantucket Sound and it makes it very difficult,” he said.
Whether rain or snow falls Thursday, “either way, it’s not going to be good,” Smith said.
Smith said he expects the precipitation will pile up and freeze on top of ice, and freshwater ice is much harder than saltwater ice because the salinity in saltwater allows it not to freeze as hard.
“Even if we get a brief reprieve on Thursday, it will freeze again after that,” Smith said. “When things get this cold, things start to go bad.”
On Tuesday morning, frozen conditions were also reported in Wellfleet, where Harbormaster Mike Flanagan reported that the Wellfleet Town Pier was iced in.
“The ice is starting to do some damage to some of our infrastructure,” Flanagan said. “It’s pulling out some pilings; it’s starting to wreck some of the docks on the water.”
Three sections of dock need to be taken out and ice needs to be broken, and commercial boats can’t go out, Flanagan said.
“A lot of people pulled boats in — there was a big scramble last week, but nine or 10 boats are still in the water,” he said.
Flanagan expects it will get worse.
“Definitely we expect it to get worse,” he said. “Really, there’s nothing you can do when the ice comes in, you’re stuck. We need a vessel to remove some of the floats.”
“We don’t expect the Coast Guard to send down an ice breaker for us. They have other more important harbors that they need to keep clear.”
“We assume that fishermen have enough common sense to take their boats out before the ice [comes] in, but year after year there are always a couple,” Flanagan said.
In Falmouth, Harbormaster Gregg Fraser reported “some light ice, but nothing major yet.”
In Provincetown, Harbormaster Rex McKinsey has not seen any ice yet, which isn’t unusual.
“Dennis and Wellfleet will ice up first; we’re usually the last port open,” he said.
The water is choppy, but no ice so far — and it’s very, very cold, he said.
“It’s blowing like stink out of the north, it’s really freaking cold,” he said.
McKinsey said he hopes the ice will not get worse as the week continues.
“It all depends on wind direction,” McKinsey said. “We won’t necessarily freeze up on our own. What happens is ice forms on the Brewster Flats, but it gets stuck in Provincetown.”
The Coast Guard used the Pendant, a 65-foot ice-cutting vessel based out of Boston, to break up the ice in Weymouth. (The Pendant has since experienced mechanical issues, so it was taken to Point Allerton for possible repairs, Coast Guard officials said Tuesday morning.)
Weymouth Harbormaster Paul Milone reported that the Coast Guard cutter Pendant had been “going back and forth all weekend” to keep the channel clear.
“The Coast Guard does a great job of breaking the stuff up,” Milone said.
Milone noted said the timing of this cold snap — and the ice that inevitably forms as a result — is unusual.
“We usually don’t get it this early,” he said.
“When 32 degrees sounds warm, you’re in the wrong location,” he said with a chuckle. “Maybe we all should move to California.”
Thus far, Milone said he had not received any reports of vessels getting stuck or any other problems.
“Hopefully the ice will go away,” he said. “We’re taking it day by day, just like everyone else.”