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Great Lakes thawing out later, slower than usual
Some parts of the lakes are up to 40 percent covered with ice

Kevin Niedermier
This season’s ice coverage was the second-highest in the Great Lakes; the highest was in 1979
Courtesy of K. Bhatia
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In The Region:
This winter’s extreme weather has resulted in more ice cover on the Great Lakes than usual for this time of year.  And that means the shipping season is off to a slow start. All five lakes are still nearly 40 percent covered. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says that could be as much as 10 percent above average. Glenn Nekvasil is with the Lake Carriers Association.  He says the Coast Guard started breaking up ice on Lake Superior on Dec. 6th – the earliest date on record, and things have been slow since.
Great Lakes thawing out later, slower than usual

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“And cargo movement in December and January was down significantly.  Iron ore was down 21 percent compared to a year ago, and in January it was down almost 40 percent.  So as a result, we were not able to build stockpiles to the level that we would have liked.  Here in April, actually, two steelmakers have had to suspend steel operations for a while because they do not have enough iron ore.”

On the plus side, the longer the lakes stay frozen, the less the water evaporates. That means lake levels will rise slightly and freighters can carry a little more cargo.  But Nekvasil says that won't be enough to close the shipping deficit.
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