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EXCLUSIVE: CBS 3 On Board As Coast Guard Breaks Ice Along Delaware River

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By Kate Bilo

TRENTON, N.J., (CBS) — Our frigid weather is responsible for this – ice jams along the Delaware River.

The thick chunks could plug up the waterway and lead to flooding.

But the U.S. Coast Guard is taking action and only CBS 3 is getting an up-close look.

Meteorologist Kate Bilo has the exclusive story.

Monday, Eyewitness News cameras were on board as the Coast Guard Cutter “Cleat” as Officer in Charge A.J. Pulkkinen traveled upriver to break the ice along the Delaware.

“En route Trenton for ice breaker,” Officer Pulkkinen said.

The ship encountered two types of ice – drift ice which floats on the surface, and fast ice which actually adheres to the coastline or river bottom.

“The fast ice you actually need to break in order to get through, so that’s where it gets a little more dangerous,” Officer Pulkkinen said. “Today was the thickest that we saw so far this year, we had seven to eight inches up north near Trenton area.”

This ship, a 65-foot ice breaking cutter, chops up the ice and uses its wake to send it to the surface, where the sun can melt it.

“We went up to Trenton area to break the ice and do some channel maintenance.  We like to break the ice up so we don’t create another ice jam,” Officer Pulkkinen said.

An ice jam can cause flooding, threatening homes along the river, but it can also have an indirect impact on thousands of people.

“A lot of goods we buy in the supermarket, the heating oil we need to heat our homes, all comes through the maritime channels. So if these rivers freeze up, and those essential supplies are unable to come in, that affects every person in this area,” Officer Pulkkinen said.

Officer Pulkkinen says the ice breaking work is fun and challenging, if a little counter-intuitive.

“It is awkward to be told to run into stuff intentionally, that’s definitely not in our DNA,” Officer Pulkkinen said.

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