Crews fight freezing temps to pull boat from Mississippi River

Cleanup crews in Le Claire, Iowa were racing against the clock to beat the freezing temperatures expected to arrive Wednesday night.

Crews had been working in Le Claire since Monday, November 25th, 2013 when a tow boat struck a submerged object in the Mississippi River.

Wednesday brought forth a new challenge for crews.

“With the freezing temperatures coming, we have definitely been rushing the clock but safely as possible,” said Sean Stone, Damage Control First Class for the U.S. Coast Guard.

Temperatures in Le Claire were in the mid 40s to high 50s for several days. Those mild temperatures helped crews make significant progress with stopping leaking diesel fuel.

“All the fuel tanks are completely sealed and we have about 90% of the vessels exterior doors and openings sealed up that are below the water line,” said Stone.

But Wednesday night when temperatures dipped well below freezing, cleanup crews were forced to change their strategy.

Diesel fuel that is easily collectable by absorbent booms could become much more difficult to collect if the water freezes.

If the diesel fuel freezes under the water, it will be even more difficult to collect.

That’s why crews have implemented several backup plans including using a barge to block ice from traveling into the work zone.  They also have small boats drive around the work zone, and they use bubblers, to keep water moving.

“The bubblers are a pump that is designed to go underwater and just jet water strait up so it creates flowing water,” Stone said, “It will prevent any type of ice from forming.”

The U.S. Coast Guard says this could buy them a few more days, but Mother Nature is not working in their favor.

Crews were optimistic that the Stephen L. Colby will be lifted out of the water by Saturday, December 7.

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