CORNER BROOK — When the winds die down, the MV Sir Robert Bond will still have ice conditions to keep an eye out for as it resumes service between Corner Brook and Blanc Sablon.
The ferry has made just one round trip, from Corner Brook to southern Labrador and back again, before being tied up to wait out stormy weather that passed through the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the Strait of Belle Isle Monday night.
The Bond was scheduled to make its next run to Blanc Sablon this morning, weather permitting of course.
Sea ice conditions in the Strait of Belle Isle have changed a lot in the last two weeks. In mid-January, there was hardly any ice worth talking about. Since then, heavier sea ice from along Labrador’s eastern coastline has drifted southward. Some of the leading edge has made its way into the Strait of Belle Isle.
When the Bond made its way from Lewisporte to Corner Brook for the start of its winter service late last week, it was escorted by the Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker George R. Pearkes.
Southwesterly winds have pushed some of that ice back out through the straits, but the persistent Labrador current will likely bring the ice back into the strait.
A change in wind direction from the south and that ice, when it returns, will eventually find its way into Blanc Sablon.
“It’s always a bit of a balancing act around Blanc Sablon in as much as it doesn’t take much of a wind shift to push the ice into Blanc Sablon,” said Paul Veber, the Canadian Coast Guard’s superintendent of ice operations. “We monitor that on a daily basis because we know it’s critical to get ferry traffic in and out of there.”
It’s not just the Sir Robert Bond that is hoping Blanc Sablon remains accessible for as long as possible. The Northern Express ferry that services Quebec’s lower north shore also terminates its route at Blanc Sablon.
Veber said some of the ice now in the Strait of Belle Isle is as much as 30 centimetres thick.
Residents of the Bay of Islands may have noticed two ice breakers in the Humber Arm on Monday. The Pearkes, now on its way to Charlottetown, P.E.I., was making a rendezvous to transfer personnel and equipment to the Henry Larsen, the coast guard vessel that is taking over the ice-breaking duties in the Strait of Belle Isle.
There were several severe weather warnings issued for the west coast Monday, including wind and snow squall warnings with southwesterly winds exceeding 120 km/hr forecast for the Strait of Belle Isle area.
There was also a storm surge warning issued for the west coast and the Northern Peninsula, with increased water levels expected in areas north of Port Saunders — particularly in the Savage Cove area.
Fire and Emergency Services-Newfoundland and Labrador were making contact with affected communities Monday to ensure they were aware of the impending weather conditions.
The storm surge was expected to peak at high tide, which occurs between 7 and 7:30 in both the morning and evening.
In addition to the threat of storm surge activity, strong winds were expected to produce pounding surf and strong wave activity. Emergency management officials advised that visibility may be impacted, which could pose significant risk for people who journey close to coastal areas.
Environment Canada noted that conditions will persist for most areas into this evening before tapering off.