The recent record-breaking Northeast winter — one that will supplant 2004 as “the worst winter since …” — didn’t seem like anything historic,
or even noteworthy, at its outset. Through December, it
was fairly typical by New England standards. As the New
Year dawned, however, Mother Nature flipped a switch.
The early part of January brought an outbreak of
cold. Once it settled in, it only grew worse. Then, in
mid-January, the snow began and kept coming in
waves, with one big storm followed quickly by another. As temperatures bottomed out, snow piled up, often
a foot or more at a time.
By the time many in the region were reveling in the
New England Patriots’ nail-biting Super Bowl victory
on Feb. 1, it was like “the ice age” had set in, said
Coast Guard Chief Boatswain’s Mate Dustin Ridgeway,
commander of the Boston-based 65-foot small harbor
tug Pendant, which spent the season breaking ice in
and around Boston Harbor.
When it was over, which for
some wasn’t until well into April,
Boston had received more than 110
inches of snow — nearly three
times its seasonal average, with
most of it falling over a five-week
stretch, according to National
Weather Service statistics. February
was one of the coldest months on
record in a number of cities, such
as Bangor, Maine, which had an
average monthly temperature of 6. 2
degrees Fahrenheit, 15 degrees
colder than normal.
During the worst of it, rivers, harbors and bays — key routes not only
for commercial and public transportation, but critical deliveries of
home heating oil — were frozen to
depths and distances that had not
been seen in more than a decade.
All of this made for a very long and busy season for
the First Coast Guard District, whose primary winter
mission is inland and near-shore icebreaking in support of Operation RENEW (Reliable Energy for
NorthEast Winters), the service’s region-wide effort to
ensure Northeast communities have the security, supplies, energy and emergency resources they need
throughout the winter.
“It was a doozy,” Matthew Stuck, First District
Waterways manager, said in an interview at First
District headquarters in Boston. “The previous winter
of ’ 13 to ’ 14 was a moderate-to-severe winter. This winter was definitely a severe winter — the most intense,
certainly, that we’ve had in terms of ice coverage and
the duration of that coverage since 2004.
“Our freshwater areas are typically where you see it
first, and even in the upper reaches of the Hudson
there was not significant ice in the Albany [N.Y.] area
or the upper reaches of the Kennebec, near Augusta or
Rising to the Occasion
Winter extremes put Northeast icebreakers to the test
keeping waterways open for fuel deliveries
By PETER ATKINSON, Deputy Editor
Doozy’ of a Winter
With more than 110 inches of snow this past winter in Boston, the
Coast Guard’s First District had a long and busy season doing
inland and near-shore icebreaking.
■ Most of the district’s icebreaking supports Operation RENEW,
the service’s region-wide effort to ensure Northeast communities
have the security, supplies, energy and emergency resources
they need throughout the winter.
■ With conditions also impacting commuter ferry and water taxi
service, fishing fleets, maritime commerce and Coast Guard facilities themselves, icebreaking in the Northeast became an “
■ The district also is home to the U.S. Coast Guard International
Ice Patrol, whose operations typically start about the same time
icebreaking is in full swing and last through the summer.