Canadian Coast Guard icebreakers brought in to tackle 13-kilometre long ice jam stranding ships
After four days marooned due to a massive ice jam in the St. Lawrence River, eight ships were able to leave the Port of Montreal Saturday (Jan. 27) morning to complete their journeys.
The ships were stuck in town since Tuesday (Jan. 22), along with 10 others at ports in Trois-Rivières and Les Escoumins, because ice clogged the river and seaway route near Sorel, about 100 kilometres downstream from Montreal, where the river narrows. Three Canadian Coast Guard icebreakers navigated the passageways for 24 hours a day until the ice was broken up sufficiently to allow safe passage. Officials were also worried about flooding of municipalities in the area, because water levels had already started to rise due to the ice jams. They have since abated, said Isabelle Pelchat, director of the icebreaking program and Arctic operations for the Canadian Coast Guard.
“Due to the intense cold that we had, the ice formed very rapidly,” Pelchat said. “Plus with the snowstorm, with the snow on top of the ice, it gets really, really heavy. So there was an ice jam near Sorel, where there is a kind of bottleneck of the river.”
Ice jams are relatively rare on the St. Lawrence. This was only the fourth time since 1993 ice buildups interrupted ship traffic. Unlike this month’s freeze-over, the other jams were caused by heavy winds that dislodged ice sheets connected to the shore, which then caused bottlenecks downstream in Sorel.
Read more on Montreal Gazette.