May 1, 2022: Snakes & Ladders

It’s raining out. Let’s play a board game. The Ice Patrol edition of Snakes & Ladders, to be specific. I was going to play it straight and call call this post Other Factors, but I’m bored.

Miss Frazzel’s kindergarten class has 20 students. Their names, co-incidentally, correspond to the years of this century, except One and Two missed class today.* The rest of us, Three through Twenty-two, want to go outside for recess, but it’s not nice out, so Miss Frazzel sets us all to playing Snakes & Ladders to pass the time. As the weather improves, she announces that as each student finishes, they can go outside to play. We are Twenty-two, and we haven’t had the best luck. It took us forever to roll doubles and get started. Miss Frazzel calls this the Inflection Rule. We’re on the board now, but we’re way behind most of the other kids.

*She’s named after frazzel ice. No relation to that other teacher with the weird bus.

We don’t have ice-out dates for 2001 or 2002, so those kids don’t get to play our game.

The Ice Patrol S&L board has 42 squares, arranged like a calendar of six weeks. With average rolls of around seven, the kids can reach the Ice-Free finish line in about that number of turns, like a typical thaw lasting six weeks. The dice are the weekly temperatures. Roll some hot weather and you can finish faster. Roll low temperatures and it’s going to take a while.

There are some special squares with writing on them:

Cold Snap: Lose a turn.     Heat Wave: roll again.

Then there are the ladders. Land on The Ice Was Thin This Winter, and you shoot ahead by a whole week. There’s one called Timely Rain that gets you ahead by a few days, and one near the end called Warm South Wind that gives you a four-day boost.

And of course there are the Snakes. Late Snowstorm sets you back five days. We hit that one twice. We were afraid we were going to land on Sluggish Currents, but we dodged that one.

At this point, over a third of the class has already gone out to play in the puddles, and of the thirteen still playing, almost all are somewhere  ahead of us with about two weeks to go. We, and Fourteen, are still only about halfway there.

If we roll average temperatures, we’re looking at three weeks to go. Can we speed it up?  We just hit Timely Rain, and Improving Forecast is coming up in a few squares: we might get a boost from slightly better than normal temperatures after all.

The thing is, we don’t know how it’ll play out yet. Let’s hope the dice are hot.

This whimsical post was inspired by all the different factors that play into the spring thaw. Things like snow cover are important, but are probably more complex than yes or no. Other ideas that have been floated around lately include factoring in the UV index and even allowing for a kind of depreciation of old ice in middling temperatures. To model all these things–or even most of them–we’d need fancy computers and software like the meteorologists have.

And a ton more data. A recent comment from Todd suggested that our early winter snowfalls insulated the ice from the worst effects of the extreme cold in January and February. He measured only 34″ of ice, when he’s often seen 40″ or more. He didn’t say when or where. Update from Todd: this was March 25, and down around Morson.   My regular ice-fishing friends pulled off the lake early due to slush, so they never gave me a late-season measurement from when the ice is thickest. Sean’s ice auger broke down, so he didn’t get a measurement after mid-winter, either. If the ice was not as thick as the winter temperatures suggest, things could go faster than we expected. If you were drilling through the ice this spring, and you can remember the date and location, let me know what you found.

Signs of spring: I’ve seen and heard quite a few songbirds lately. There is still some snow on the ground, but the recent rain has reduced it drastically.

I hiked down to have a look at the Norman Dam today, and the water is gushing through every gate.

Downstream side of the Norman Dam, May 1, 2022.

White water is surging and roiling downstream as far as the hazard buoys. I stayed in the bush, a long way from the slippery wet rocks at the river’s edge.


12 thoughts on “May 1, 2022: Snakes & Ladders

  1. I still see the common misconcedption that rain washes away snow or melts the snow. It is NOT the rain that melts or washes away the snow. It is the high humidity of high dewpoint (humid air) associated with the rain which causes much of the snow or ice to melt when everything is white. The condensation of moist air on the snow releases 580 calories of heat for every gram of water which condenses.

    Check your hydrological/meorological textbooks if you do not believe me.

    Louis Legal
    Retired Meteorologist

    • Cool! I had assumed that it was the heat energy of the liquid rain that did the trick. Does this mean that fog would be just as effective? I’ll read up on it.

      • Aha! Found some stuff that confirms that high humidity, regardless of precipitation, does indeed do a number on snow. Thanks, and Louis, please feel free to comment whenever you see how a meteorologist’s viewpoint could add everyone’s understanding of the thaw.

  2. Hi Ice Captain. That ice measurement was west of Morson that was around March 25th ish. The ice did not get appreciably thicker after February it may have only gained maybe 6-10″ of ice from the start of Feb to the middle of March if I remember right. You still needed an extension on the auger though from the 2 feet of snow on top of the ice. Near to shore the snow was piled up from the wind, sometimes up to 5 or 6 feet deep.

  3. What a fun post! Made this islander smile, appreciate the updates, pics, graphs and this year…gory details 🤞🏻For a good thaws, brittle ice that when and if the winds come…don’t take out or damage docks!

  4. Thanks for the update. My snakes and ladders guess: the rain and approaching warming temperatures are going to help more than anticipated. So ice out by May 18th. Still very late!

  5. Just love this post – ice captain
    I can take a later ice out, but not spring flooding because I have a boat suspended inside my boathouse; being its winter storage place.

  6. Very fun read, clever you! I have enjoyed the post for several years. I am the 3rd generation at our camp on the southwest side of Scotty Is., 1/2 moon bay with sandy beach. We now have 4th and 5th generation folks there. Grandpa bought the property in 1934. Mostly it is myself and my husband there for up to 3 months in the summer now with visits from son and family as often as possible. The posts often show Scotty, so such fun to have a look see. We are still primitive, no running water or hydro, just propane and a classy outhouse. Remember days as a kid drinking water right from the lake and still here to tell about it. Thanks to all those contributing to this post. Gwen Koehler

  7. Good morning, 1st I would like to thank you for all of your posts!

    I am on welcome channel at the west end and my ice was 39” on March 20th. I had also cleared the snow off of the ice all winter long.



    • Hey Greg another Welcome Channeler here. You must be on Wolfe are you? I k ow most of the Hare folk. We’re on northwest side of channel, across from Hare.

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