Ice Halts Ohio River Ferry Service
UPDATE: 2:45 p.m. Jan. 10, 2014
The Cave-in-Rock Ferry is back open. Service resumed at noon Friday. The Ohio River ferry was forced to shut down Thursday because of ice.
It was the first time operators have dealt with ice problems in more than 15 years. Officials say there is still ice along the river --but it melted enough for the ferry to safely operate.
The shutdown means an hour long driver for people trying to get from Hardin County, Illinois to Crittenden County, Kentucky.
CAVE-IN-ROCK -- An ice flow not seen in almost 20 years is forcing an Ohio River ferry to halt service.
The Cave-in-Rock Ferry has had to close on a regular basis for strong winds or even high water. This winter, they have a different worry.
The ferry company says when the ice first arrived on Wednesday, it was spread across the river. On Thursday, the good news was that it's flowing just on the Illinois side. Still, any ice is not good for a boat that runs bank to bank.
"In less than an hour, it shut us down," said Ferry Corporation President Lonnie Ray Lewis.
Lewis got reports of ice from upstream and knew the flow on the Ohio River was coming.
"It started out at Shawneetown the day before," said Lewis. "It took a full 24 hours for it to come ten miles down the river."
At 4 p.m. Wednesday, Lewis watched the water go from clear to filled with frozen chunks.
It brought travel between Kentucky and Illinois to a halt for hundreds of commuters.
"We started running through it," said Lewis. "But it's too hard on equipment."
Ice can be a powerful force. It chips away paint and breaks off parts of the boat. The damage can quickly add up to thousands of dollars in repairs.
"Sometimes the ice will get hung between the rudder and the wheel," said Lewis. "You can't steer it, or you can't make it go."
Luckily, Lewis has not had to deal with these kind of conditions in quite awhile.
Lewis says before the dams were put in on the Ohio River, ice was a dangerous part of winter. Since then, it's been less of a concern. The ferry hasn't been stopped by ice since 1995.
In 1995, Lewis recalls the ice being much worse. Even with the sub-zero days this winter, he didn't expect it to be an issue.
"The Ohio water is a lot warmer," said Lewis. "It's not even close to freezing temperature."
He says water on the Wabash River flooded and froze. As it thawed, the ice was dumped into the flow of the Ohio River.
It's a problem that Lewis hopes will be washed away by the rain on Thursday and Friday.
"We're going to be open for business as soon as possible," said Lewis.
Ice is also causing some issues on the Mississippi River. An Army Corps of Engineers spokesperson says it started to build up near St. Louis last week. That ice has made travel for barges tougher, and the ice pieces have been taking out buoys.
The Corps also had to stop removing rock at its project near Thebes.
Wind: 17 MPH
Humidity: 81 %