Spring Is Here! Time For House-Crushing Walls of Ice

This weekend, winter struck back in an awesome way.

Summer is almost upon us, yet Mother Nature is still dropping nasty frozen tricks. This weekend, communities in Canada and the United States got to witness a meteorological phenomenon many folks are lucky never to hear about: lake-ice steamrollers.

Weather that moves horizontal is often perilous – tornadoes and derechos come to mind – and so it was with huge masses of migrating ice on Manitoba's Dauphin Lake and Mille Lacs Lake in Minnesota. For reference, the bodies of water are located at the upper left and bottom right of this satellite photo taken Sunday by the Suomi satellite:


On Friday, strong winds blowing through Canada clumped broken-up slabs of ice on Dauphin Lake, forming a wall of frozen matter that, with a noise one man said resembled a "big roar," swiftly pushed itself out of the water. Residents of Ochre Beach were just sitting down to dinner when this thing moved inland, buffaloing through doors and windows and swamping homes in a lakeslide of ice.

More than two dozen properties were damaged or destroyed before the icy shelf, which was moving at about "walking speed," lost its momentum. Manitoba's premier called the damage the "kind of destruction you see maybe once in a lifetime in an area like this."

That was Day 1 in ice-smash news. On Saturday, a different form of frigid menace turned up near the Izatys Resort about 90 miles north of Minneapolis. Winds gusting over the region imparted so much force to the thick ice sheet over Mille Lacs Lake that it began to lurch ashore, where its weird progress and crackling sounds were captured by a local videographer:

This time the damage wasn't as bad – the ice came to a halt before mushing into many homes, although it did uproot and debark several trees. The vistas alongside the shore must be stunning right now, with reports of a frozen wave of ice towering up to 30 feet in the air. Residents are slowly pushing the encroaching lake back into its proper place with a bulldozer.

About the Author

  • John Metcalfe is a staff writer at CityLab who writes about science, climate, and public art.