Freezing Hudson River hampers local tour boat

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It might not be the Akademik Shokalskiy, the Russian boat recently trapped by ice in Antarctica, but the Brooklyn, a 280-ton tour boat operated by the Circle Line, has had its own troubles this week with freezing temperatures.

The boat, which usually circumnavigates Manhattan, has had to turn around in the East River since Sunday, effectively making a semicircle, according to The New York Times. The problem was the Hudson River. With temperatures in the region cascading below zero and staying near freezing through Thursday, it had turned into a field of floes — large slabs of ice that bob on the tides.

“It’s a big, powerful boat, but the whole river is ice,” Gus Markou, president of the Circle Line, told the Times.

The polar vortex, which has blanketed much of the country with arctic air, has given New Yorkers a glimpse of their not-too-distant past. As recently as the 1980s, the Hudson regularly churned with ice in the winter, but in recent years, with warmer seasons, it has flowed freely.

Ferry riders have posted pictures to Twitter of the ice-filled river on their morning commutes. It also posed challenges, especially in a city that has only recently embraced its once industrial waterfront.

Just north of New York City, NY Waterway on Monday suspended its two commuter ferries that cross the Hudson because of the ice. And an empty ferry that was headed on Wednesday to Weehawken, N.J., for maintenance ran into trouble and summoned a tugboat for help.

The ice doesn’t block the ferry, but it does clog the jet intakes, NY Waterway spokesman Pat Smith told the paper.

Farther north, the Coast Guard was busy chopping ice between West Point and Albany, with two icebreakers deployed. “They are continuously grooming the channel and making sure the ice isn’t getting clogged at some of the choke points where the river bends,” Chief Warrant Officer Kary Moss said.

The 140-foot Sturgeon Bay can smash through 30-inch sheets of ice, he said, and the 65-foot Hawser can tackle foot-thick ice. “We’re seeing two to six inches of thickness, but there are places where the river is fairly solid all the way across,” Moss said.

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