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(ST. IGNACE, Mich.) – Due to the bitter cold temperatures this winter, the Great Lakes right now are more than 85-percent frozen — more frozen than they have been all season.

The U.S. Coast Guard cutter Katmai Bay — stationed in St. Ignace, Michigan — has been working nonstop this season to keep shipping channels open along the Straits of Mackinaw.

Shipping slows down during the winter months, but there are still many important shipments that need to get through, including vital road salt that Midwest communities are relying on to clear streets and highways.

The Katmai Bay also works as a lifeline to those vessels that are stuck in the ice, often helping to clear a path for the ships to make their way to port.

The cutter recently needed to help the crew of a Canadian freighter that is stuck in the ice. Katmai Bay ferried the crew to land to get supplies and food, and within a couple of days will be leading a convoy to get the ship moving again.

There’s so much ice buildup right now, the U.S. Coast Guard believes it will have to work to keep shipping channels clear in the Great Lakes for at least the next few months.

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