Tangier Island, with nearly 500 residents in Virginia, was frozen off from the mainland. The marshy, one-mile wide island became enveloped by thick ice and the ferry couldn’t get to the mainland. They were running low on heating fuel and water.
The U.S.Coast Guard and Maryland Department of Natural Resources joined forces with icebreaking ships and cut through the ice in the short window before Saturday’s snow storm. The Chesapeake Bay was frozen 12-inches deep in places.
WMDT TV out of Salisbury sent a crew to cover the mission.
The Coast Guard icebreaking boat assigned to the area broke down earlier in the week and Tangier Mayor James Eskridge called on Maryland for help.
The problem was that Maryland state ships aren’t supposed to be in Virginia’s waters; they need a formal request from Tangier, which arrived Thursday morning. After clearing the red tape, John Gallagher, director of Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources’ hydrographic operations, says the largest DNR icebreaker ship was redirected.
The 100-foot vessel, J. Millard Tawes, was diverted from its duties keeping the shipping channel clear between Crisfield and Smith Island to attack the glacier that has enveloped Tangier, a Chesapeake Bay island 12 miles from the mainland.
The Tawes is one of four vessels in Maryland’s icebreaking fleet that works with the U.S. Coast Guard to keep commerce moving on the bay and its tributaries . They also keep fuel and supplies flowing to isolated communities.