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Icy Rivers Has Coast Guard, Locks And Dams On Alert

Reported: Jan. 30, 2014 1:03 PM EST
Updated: Jan. 30, 2014 1:35 PM EST
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HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (Katelyn Sykes) -- If you have taken a look at the rivers recently you might notice a lot of ice. The below freezing temperatures have caused the Kanawha and Ohio rivers to freeze in places.

For Commander Lee Boone of the U.S. Coast Guard, the ice on the Ohio River in Huntington is a sight to see and a big job to handle.

"It's very rare that we've got any ice on the river, but we're dealing with that as it comes up," Boone said.

Boone's Marine Safety Unit covers the Ohio River from New Martinsville, W.Va., to Baysville, Ky. They have been keeping en eye on the ice and said commercial traffic has been slower.

"Our commercial guys are very resourceful and industrious in figuring out how to continue maritime commerce and do it and do it in a safe way," Boone said.

Safety is always considered first, so they have put restrictions on tow length.

"A normal tow going through a lock and dam is five barge lengths long, and we've restricted that to four just to give us enough room to push the ice through the lock and dam," Boone said.

Things have been busy at locks and dams. Officials at the Marmet Locks and Dam on the Kanawha River have to cycle water through the chambers every hour to keep ice from forming.

"It's increased now just because of the ice," said Lock and Dam Operator Charlie Stewart. "Normally, we'd let it sit there until a boat would come through and open the chamber and cycle it."

The ice has caused some machines to freeze up such as the gates not being able to close properly, but no major issues.

"We just have to make the river traffic, boats up and down the river, let them be aware that we've had some issues, nothing that will stop us from getting them to where they're going," Stewart said.

While the river looks like it's a solid sheet of ice, boats and barges are still able to get through, just a little bit more slowly.



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