U.S. Army Corps of Engineers measure Lake Pepin ice - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers measure Lake Pepin ice

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LAKE CITY, Minn. (KTTC) -- The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers measured the ice depth on Lake Pepin Thursday morning.

Using an airboat and an auger, measurements were taken from each mile along a 21 mile stretch of the Upper Mississippi. 

Al Van Guilder of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers measured 21 inches of ice during preliminary measurements Thursday morning. 

"We do this once a week starting today and we'll be out here once a week until the towboat industry breaks through Lake Pepin," Van Guilder said.

This stretch has been chosen because a slower current in the lake means it's the last ice along the channel to break.

Just a few miles downstream, where the current is stronger, the mighty Mississippi flows. 

"We get to the south end here or the north end of Lake Pepin here, that's where she really starts to thin out," said Bill Chelmowski, also of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. 

The measurements on Lake Pepin will give the supply industry a better idea when traffic at locks and dams can return to normal. 

On average, the first tow through the area is March 24. Last year, the ice picked up about two inches between measurements and was impassable until April 8.  

"We very possibly could do the same thing this year if we keep up with the cold weather," said Chelmowski.

Tows usually wait until they're only battling around a foot of ice headed into the area. After the first tows pass, spring follows not far behind. 

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