John Flesher chronicles the freezing of the Great Lakes

March 4, 2014
By Bill Krueger

Having lived in Traverse City, Michigan, for 22 years, John Flesher is accustomed to snow and cold weather by now.

But even he couldn’t help but feel a sense of awe at what Mother Nature did this winter — almost completely covering the Great Lakes with ice. Flesher, a correspondent for The Associated Press, wrote an article last month about ice covering nearly 90 percent of the Great Lakes, the first time that has happened since 1994.

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John Flesher on frozen Lake Michigan

“It’s unusual for the entire surface area of the lakes to freeze over,” says Flesher, a 1980 NC State graduate who was editor of the Technician. “That just doesn’t happen. In order to have significant parts of the lake freeze over, it has to be really cold for a good period of time.”

And that’s what happened this winter, which has seen the Midwest and other sections of the country repeatedly get blasted with snow, ice and freezing temperatures.

For people who live and work around the Great Lakes, such drastic winter weather has created hardships and opportunities. In his article for The Associated Press, Flesher wrote about thousands of people taking advantage of Lake Superior being frozen over to explore caves with “dazzling ice formations.” But he also wrote about the challenges the ice presented for the crew of the Coast Guard cutter Mackinaw trying to clear paths on Lake Huron for vessels carrying essential cargo such as heating oil. The local newspaper in Traverse City recently had a photo on the front page, Flesher says, of joggers running eight miles across the frozen Traverse Bay.

“It’s just an illustration that nature is very powerful,” he says. “It has a real effect on the economy and our way of life. When these extremes come along, people simply have to cope with it.”

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