NAPOLEON, Mo. — Right now the Missouri River looks like a scene from the Arctic Circle, as chunks of ice swiftly float along with the current.
When snow falls and digits drop, the work of transporting materials continues. Each year about 5 million tons of cargo, including sand, gravel and scrap metal, travel the Missouri River.
Liquid asphalt is one of the major transports.
"It's the asphalt binder for most of the asphalt road paving that goes on in the Kansas City area, western Missouri and Eastern Kansas. Last year, they estimated about 70,000 trucks would have gone back on I-70 if they wouldn't have been transporting," said J Rudy.
As an operations project manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Rudy is one of the people responsible for maintaining 500 miles of the waterway.
"This time of year we are helping any navigators that are on the river," Rudy said.
That means tracking ice along the river and providing reports to the National Weather Service. Although beautiful, the chunks of ice are capable of punching holes in barges.
"Most of our navigators if there's ice will actually pull over to the side and stop until it goes away," said Rudy.
If barges stay out on the river, they have to ride the current with the ice to prevent major damage.
Luckily, the delay isn't a big deal at this time of year, since it's not construction crunch time.
"The navigators that are out there now are just taking advantage of high water, so they're actually getting ahead," Rudy said.
The ice typically melts in about a week, so barges will be back on Big Muddy soon. Traffic on the river will pick up in April, when the primary shipping season begins.