March 20, 2020: First day of spring

Saint Patrick’s Day has come and gone, and this is around the time when I usually start paying close attention to the ice.

But before you get all excited, I should point out that it was -17ºC this morning and it felt like -24º. Naturally, we are not seeing a whole lot of melting. On recent training flights over the lake, I have seen very little open water. Many areas that were open a few weeks ago have refrozen in the last one or two cold spells.

Although it warmed up this afternoon, it will be cold again tonight. But starting tomorrow, there should be a warming trend for a week or so.

I haven’t been taking a lot of pictures, because there’s not much to see. Just to give you an idea, here’s a shot that looks south west.

Cropped 20200320_105924

Scotty Island and it’s distinctive curving beach are at the bottom of the frame, just left of centre. Big Narrows and Shoal Lake Narrows are off in the distance. These are both high-flow areas that open early. So far, there are only tiny patches of visible water.

You can click on the pictures to see full-screen versions that can be zoomed to full resolution.

This second picture of The Manitou looks north east over Twelve Mile Portage towards Whiskey Island with Kenora in the distance.

Cropped 20200320_115047

Closer to town, there is some open water in Keewatin Channel and on Safety Bay. Otherwise, as you can see, the lake is iced over and well covered in fresh white snow.

Be of good cheer, though, my ice fishing friends tell me the ice is still only around two and a half feet thick, which is on the thin side for this time of year.

You may be wondering if the Covid-19 pandemic will affect Ice Patrol. Yes, it will.

Most of the flights I do are trips to northern communities. Nearly all of those trips have been cancelled, as those remote communities have closed themselves off to unnecessary visitors. They have good reason: self-isolation is not going to work well in a place with housing shortages and overcrowded living conditions. Diabetes is common and health facilities are modest. If the virus were to get a foothold in those communities, it would run rampant.

That means I will be in the air less often. At MAG Canada, we are using this slow period to catch up on our training, so there are still some flights, for the time being. Other airlines are reducing their schedules and laying people off, so I don’t expect to get as many pictures from guest contributors this spring.


If you are checking in with Ice Patrol from outside the area, or outside Canada, here is a summary of how Covid-19 is affecting our town.

So far, there are no known cases in Kenora. But there is one confirmed case in Fort Frances, so Northwestern Ontario is in the early stages. There are a number of cases in Manitoba, so it’s a matter of when, not if.

Schools are closed. Spring Break is almost over, but the schools will remain closed for at least another two weeks.

The recreation centre, (pool, rink, gym etc.) are closed, as are the museum and libraries. Town offices are closed to the public. Provincial court is suspended.

Supermarkets are open, but the tellers are wearing gloves or using hand sanitizer. Plexiglass shields may be coming soon. The liquor store is shortening their hours.

The hospital and seniors homes are restricting visitors.

The veterinary clinic is seeing sick animals only; no routine pet checkups or vaccinations.

Most hairdressers/salons are closed. Banks are taking extra precautions.

Many people have been told to work from home. At my workplace, this includes administrative staff. Pilots and mechanics are still going to the hangar as necessary.

The provincial government has declared a state of emergency. All restaurants must cease serving food on the premises: they can only do take-out or delivery. Bars are closed.  Gatherings such as socials and weddings are not going ahead.

The federal government has instituted tight border controls on Canada, including road ports of entry. For now, you can enter Canada if you are a citizen or a permanent resident. Canadian snowbirds and vacationers can expect to be interviewed about health-related topics, and to be told to self-isolate for two weeks.

Americans may be allowed in if they have a student visa or a work permit, but not for casual travel or routine business.

Most international flights are cancelled. Winter vacation charters are wrapping up the season early.

Here’s a link to Kenora Online’s Covid-19 page, which is updated regularly.

Stay well. Be good.



4 thoughts on “March 20, 2020: First day of spring

  1. Thank you for your very informative article. Ice patrol is welcome time of Spring. Hopefully visitors can change their plans to visit after this crisis is over.

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