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The 'ice tsunami' that can't be stopped


This video footage is from Minnesota, courtesy of The Associated Press.

The towering wall of ice that crept up a Manitoba beach this past weekend and devoured cottages is a rare phenomenon, says David Phillips of Environment Canada.

It tends to happen in the spring when ice in water bodies breaks up and moves, said Phillips. “Ice is a heavy sucker … it can’t come out (of water) on its own,” he said. “But if the winds are strong, the ice is pushed and it glides over the shoreline and rams into whatever comes its way.”

On Friday, Ochre Beach in Manitoba experienced this phenomenon when winds gusting to about 90 km/h pushed a wall of ice about 9 metres high into cottages.

It damaged more than two dozen structures, completely destroying about a dozen of those, according to reports.

There were no reports of injuries.

Phillips said there is no structure that can withstand the force of ice. “It will bulldoze anything …docks, decks, houses, even stone walls.”

It is a part of the melting process, he added. “You won’t see it in the winter because the entire lake is covered with ice then.”

 Phillips has heard of it happening around the Great Lakes, too, but nothing like the one at Ochre Beach.

“I have heard of incidents in Ontario where a dock or a deck is damaged by moving ice…but this was a rare, big one.”

It also depends on the topography: if the land around the lake is the same elevation as the shoreline, it means there is no obstacle and the ice will creep up rapidly.

Meanwhile, a wall of ice wrecked homes near Lake Mille Lacs at the Izatys Resort, Minnesota, on Saturday morning. The Associated Press reported that the wall of ice reached 9m high in some places.

The embedded video gives some idea as to the implacable force of the ice wall.

No one was reported injured in Minnesota either.

Raveena Aulakh is the Star's environment reporter. She is intrigued by climate change and its impact, now and long-term, and wildlife. Follow her on Twitter @raveenaaulakh


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This use to happen along the Ottawa River in Quebec.

I'm thinking if anyone had a bulldozer handy it might have helped some. But the mixture of the wind, water and ice may have been moving too fast.

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