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Boreal Community Media

Rare ice conditions putting on a show in northern Minnesota

Feb 25, 2019 06:43AM ● By Editor

Because the water is so clear, people could look down to the bottom of the lake under the ice. Though with blowing snow this weekend, it may no longer be safe to venture out onto the ice.  Photo:  Thunder Bay News Watch

By Doug Diaczuk of Thunder Bay News Watch - February 24, 2019

If you find yourself heading south of the border in the next few weeks, you may have an opportunity to see a natural spectacle that doesn’t come along all that often.

Lake Superior in the Cook County area has frozen solid enough this year that people have been venturing out onto the ice and even lacing up the skates.

“Typically, we don’t have this kind of ice build up on the north shore of Lake Superior to the extent that it is thick enough for us to go skating on it, but it has been this year,” said Kjersti Vick, marketing manager with Visit Cook County.

“I’ve only seen it happen a handful of times and I’ve been up here for more than 30 years. I’ve seen it maybe once every seven years or so.”

Vick said there has been a lot of people coming to the area to check out the ice, but all visitors are advised to exercise caution.

“As we all know, us living in the north, ice is never 100 per cent safe, especially on a body like Lake Superior,” Vick added. “A big sheet of ice can break off pretty quickly.”

But venturing out on the frozen surface of the largest fresh water lake has not been the only draw to the area.

Ice pile ups along the Grand Marais Harbour have been growing in size and drawing many onlookers.

“The other day, in the morning there was no ice pile up out front of the lighthouse, but by the end of the day, there was a five foot pile up,” Vick said. “There are sheets of ice the size of a small cars piling up on top of each other, which is pretty phenomenal to watch.”

However, with northern Minnesota experiencing strong wind gusts and blowing snow this weekend, it may mean people will have to enjoy these scenes from the safety of shore. 

“In terms of being able to venture out onto the ice, I would estimate with the winds this weekend, that’s probably not going to be something we will be able to do again,” Vick said. “Maybe in some smaller, protected bays. But my guess the skating season has come to an abrupt end.”

While large ice pileu ps and thick ice on Lake Superior is not uncommon in some areas, the experience along the north shore is rather unique for visitors, who are enjoying the beauty and power of nature.

“One thing that is really interesting about these pile ups is because the water is so crystal clear, when it starts to pile up like this, the ice gets a really bright blue colour,” Vick said. “It almost looks like it’s glowing. It really has a brilliant blue, like a sky blue.”

Residents of Thunder Bay are reminded that there is a bylaw prohibiting anyone from walking on the ice in front of the Marina or within city limits due to the unpredictable nature of the ice.

To read the original article and read related reporting, follow this link to the website.

Boreal Ship Spotter - larger view here