WEST POINT, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – The deep freeze that’s settled over the Tri-State Area has left scattered sheets of ice littering the Hudson River.

On Thursday, Chopper 2 looked on as a NY Waterway ferry came almost to a complete stop trying to maneuver around the ice.

But the U.S. Coast Guard is working to break up ice in the Hudson River and keep the waterways flowing.

CBS 2’s Don Champion got a firsthand look at the Coast Guard’s work Friday from aboard a cutter.

Breaking the ice: that’s the mission for the crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Penobscot Bay.

Under the direction of Commanding Officer James McCormack, the crew has been working to keep traffic on the Hudson River flowing.

On Friday, they were working just north of Bear Mountain.

“A lot of the ice that was upriver got pushed down into here,” Lt. Commander James McCormack

The crew is able to clear lanes of traffic with their specially designed vessel, equipped with increased horse power and an air lubrication system to help it maneuver.

Even the weight of the vessel is specially designed, Champion reported.

“The bow is flared out so that when we hit significant ice, we’ll actually ride up onto the ice and the weight of the cutter will come down and break it,” said McCormack.

Once the crew creates a track line or path for other vessels in the water, it could last an entire day depending on the temperature and winds.

Ice forming on the river not only poses a national security threat but it also threatens our economy.

During the winter months, roughly 300 vessels go up and down the Hudson carrying 10 million barrels of petroleum products, including home heating oil for hundreds of thousands in our area, Champion reported.

“It can stop some of these tug and barges from navigating and a Coast Guard cutter or another tug will have to come and assist and break a path so they can either get through or get to the dock,” said McCormack.

The Coast Guard carries out similar ice-breaking missions in the Great Lakes area. It even uses airplanes and helicopters during some missions.

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