Parts of the Chesapeake Bay are starting to ice over amid polar vortex chill

Parts of the Chesapeake Bay began to ice over Wednesday as an Arctic front brought the chill of the polar vortex into Maryland.

The U.S. National Ice Center’s map of the Chesapeake Bay was ice-free Tuesday, but a day later, it showed ice starting to build up on shores from the lower Eastern Shore to the Susquehanna River.


Waters around Fishing Creek in Dorchester County, including parts of the Honga River and Tar Bay, were as much as 90 percent covered in ice, the center reported. Poplar Island, in Talbot County, was also mostly surrounded by ice.

Ice was more slowly building up at the mouth of the Susquehanna, in the northern creeks of Eastern Bay on the south side of Kent Island, and in the northern Creeks of the Choptank River, around Tilghman Island and St. Michael’s. Those areas had ice cover of between 10 and 30 percent, the ice center reported.

Such ice buildup is common during major cold snaps, but it takes days of prolonged cold for more widespread ice cover to develop.

In 2014, repeated cold snaps that included 12 days of single-digit low temperatures caused the ice to build up more than it had in almost two decades. A year later, even thicker ice was reported around the bay.

Last year, Maryland Department of Natural Resources ice breakers were busy, too, needed to clear paths for boats in Spa Creek in Annapolis and to and between Smith Island and Crisfield.

Ice was expected to continue building up Thursday, with overnight lows in the single digits and highs forecast only in the 20s. Similar cold, and some snow, are forecast Friday.

According to a tweet from the Department of Natural Resources, its buoy tender, M/V J. Millard Tawes, will depart at 6 a.m. Friday en route to Smith Island at the request of the ferry boats and a marine contractor who need ice cleared from the channel into Ewell.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Buoys reported that water temperatures were close to or below freezing in many parts of the bay Thursday, including: 31.3 degrees on Hooper Strait off of Dorchester County; 32 degrees at Tolchester Beach in Kent County; 34 degrees at the Thomas Point Lighthouse off Anne Arundel County; 35 degrees off Fort McHenry; and 33.8 degrees at the mouth of the Jones Falls in the Inner Harbor.