by John L. Russell, The Detroit News

— The U.S. Coast Guard’s Air Station Traverse City calls itself “Guardian of the Great Lakes.”

The slogan is never more appropriate than in the winter, when Coast Guard aircraft help maintain essential navigation equipment for mariners. Buoys, beacons, range lights and sound signals must remain operational all year, as ships transporting fuel and other commodities ply the ice-bound lakes.

As temperatures drop below freezing, the Coast Guard station also takes over the task of transporting crews to perform repairs on the dozens of lighthouses that ring the upper Great Lakes — something that’s done by ships during warmer months.

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