May 8, 2018: Good News!

I didn’t go flying today, but my co-workers at MAG Aerospace did. They had a long day, arriving home just in time to catch some pictures in the evening light.

First home were John Sweeney and Andy Zabloski. Andy flew, John took pictures.

Blindfold Lake shines in the foreground of this picture looking west at Bigstone Bay with Hay Island in the distance. To the left, Andrew Bay looks open, but south of the Barrier Islands looks like there’s a huge area of ice remaining. Click on these pictures to see the high resolution version that you can zoom in on.

In this second shot, the plane has moved closer to Route Bay. Bigstone Bay is almost entirely open. The most ice is between Hay Island’s Needle Point and the mainland’s Heenan Point, and it’s just soft pan ice.

Hay Island, Moore Bay, Bigstone Bay. More water than ice now.

Scotty Island is just above the aircraft’s nose, and beyond that is the Manitou. Whiskey Island is still ice-locked, but all the ice looks soft and ready to disintegrate. Ptarmigan Bay and Clearwater look open, and I had a comment from scowtan2015 this morning to say that Clearwater’s ice blew out last night.

Town Island in front of the King Air’s nose this time, and everything is open around Treaty Island, Rogers Island and Galt Island now.

The next batch of pictures came from airline pilot Matthew Render, a regular guest contributor. He supplies me with pictures of Shoal Lake.

Matthew took these at six o’clock this evening; the pictures look north. The first one shows the west shore of Shoal Lake: everything is clear north of Twin Points including Rice Bay, Snowshoe Bay and Indian Bay. I’m not so sure about the north shore: cloud cover makes it hard to see if there’s ice or not.

Matthew’s second photo has Dominique Island in the foreground, and there’s still plenty of ice in view, but Matthew says it retreated a lot in the twelve hours between his morning flight and his evening flight today.

Caroline talked to a guy from the Sioux Narrows area this morning, and he said Long Bay cleared out last night.

Summary: vast areas of Lake of the Woods are open now, and the remaining ice is weak and floating loose, but cloud cover blocked the satellite cameras today, so we can’t get an overview of the whole lake.

More pictures are coming from my co-workers. Two other MAG Aero crews landed after Andy and John did. They’ll send me pictures this evening, and if their photographs cover different areas I’ll get them up late tonight or early tomorrow morning.

Thanks to everyone who pitched in to help with Ice Patrol today!

May 7, 2018: Tom Stoyka & Dan Zvanovec

First a couple of pictures from a pair of guest contributors, Tom Stoyka and Dan Zvanovec. Tom did the flying, Dan took the pictures. They were flying over the west end of the Manitou, around Brûlé Point yesterday.

This picture looks west, with the tip of Brûlé Point dead center. Above that is Ptarmigan Bay, which looks to be mostly open, but you can see ice further west by Copper Island. In the foreground, by the leading edge of the wing, is a big pan of ice in the west end of the Manitou. These pictures were sized for speedy emailing, so you cannot click on them to see a high-resolution version.

This is a closer look at the same area. Brûlé Point is at the very top right corner above the wingtip, and the land in the upper part of the picture is part of the Western Peninsula, including Bluebell Lake at the left edge.

Thanks to Tom Stoyka and Dan Zvanovec for these photographs, and to Karen Loewen, who got Dan’s permission and sent them to me.

Next up, the latest graph from Sean C.

We’re still making rapid progress, warming up almost as fast as 2007, and staying on track to be 100% ice-free by May 11. That’s a full week better than I expected back in mid-April.

I’d like to take a moment to talk about one of Kenora’s best kept secrets. As an author, it bothers me that so many people don’t know we have a local independent bookstore.

Elizabeth Campbell Books is on Main Street, right next door to the Plaza Restaurant.

Elizabeth is a stellar supporter of local authors like me.

If my brand of girl-power science fiction isn’t your cup of tea, she’s got non-fiction as well as fiction, plus art and photography books, kid’s books and indigenous art.

Want to read about Kenora’s infamous bank bombing? The Devil’s Gap by Joe Ralko tells the story of Canada’s first suicide bomber. Bush Flying Captured features the splendid aircraft photography of Rich Hulina. Local history? Community Ties by Kathy Toivonen and Kim Manduca explores the railways of Northwestern Ontario.

There are many more great titles that I couldn’t list here.

She also has whole rooms full of used books perfect for the cottage or the trip to and from it, so don’t hesitate to look beyond the front showroom.

I hope to have more new pictures tomorrow. In the meantime, I’ve updated the satellite links, and added a new one. I haven’t had much time to play with it yet, but Kevin Weber sent me a link to the NASA site that shows the MODIS pictures. In these images, the view of Lake of the Woods is at an angle from the south.

Summary: some Lake Dwellers will be able to reach their camps near Kenora already, and more of the lake will be opening up every day. Keep an eye on the comments section for reports from active boaters.

 

 

May 6, 2018: Falcon Lake

I’ve been puzzling over the appearance of Falcon Lake and West Hawk in the recent satellite pictures. I wasn’t sure if those lakes were open, or covered in very poor ice, so I asked my brother to take a look on his way to Winnipeg. He stopped to take this panoramic shot of Falcon Lake.

You can click on it to zoom in. The ice looks rotten, as if it should be gone tomorrow or Tuesday.

For other people’s reports on ice conditions, check the comments section. If you went boating in the Lake of the Woods or Whiteshell area this weekend, you’re invited to make a comment yourself.

The comments form doesn’t take attachments:  if you want to send a picture, use the email address on the ABOUT page. Don’t forget to include your name as you would like it to appear on the acknowledgement.

 

May 6, 2018: Satellite Update

I’m back in Kenora, and the lake didn’t melt while I was gone. Not all of it, anyway.

Here are today’s satellite images, starting with the true colour picture from Terra satellite. There must have been big changes near downtown Kenora, but there’s just enough cloud in the top right corner of these to obscure that part of the lake.

The false colour version makes it clear that the lake is still more than 3/4 covered in ice, but it’s all weak and breaking up. It will be gone soon.

To see a reference picture, with some landmarks labelled, visit the FAQ page.

I’m not scheduled to fly tomorrow, but if I can talk a friend into to taking a couple of pictures, I will.

IN THE MEANTIME, CHECK THE COMMENTS: PEOPLE ARE POSTING FIRST-HAND REPORTS.

 

May 4, 2018: Updated Graph

I’m out of town for the weekend, so no new pictures, but I did get an updated graph from Sean.

May4

The actual daily mean recorded by Environment Canada is  is shown as the string of blue dots. Notice how close it is to the yellow line, which is Sean’s prediction based on the weather forecast. Nailed it!

That means we’re staying on track for a fast thaw, and if we keep it up for another week, we’ll be ice free!

A note on how this prediction works: Sean starts his graph on the day when the average temperature (daily mean) goes above freezing for the season. False starts in March don’t count, so that happened on April 17 this year.  Then he looks back at how cold the winter was to get an idea how thick the ice is, and he uses data from years with similar winters to estimate how many warm days we’ll need to melt it.

This year, he estimated we’d need a “thaw index” of 200. Last Sunday, when we hit 25 degrees, we had a mean temperature of 16, so he adds 16 points towards our target. On Tuesday, we had a cold day, and only managed to add two and a half points.

The initial guess, based on an old mid-April forecast that turned out to be pessimistic, (dashed yellow line) was that we’d rack up the desired index of 200 by May 18. That’s reasonable: one month to go from above freezing to fully thawed is realistic for a late spring.

The fastest spring thaw in recent years was 2007, and is represented by the red line on the graph. It took just three weeks. The weather forecast we had in April didn’t look that promising.

But now we are getting close to having a thaw that fast! Sean’s revised estimate, worked out when the May forecast called for warmer temperatures, is that we might be ice free by May 11. That would be 24 days, compared to 20 in 2007. That’s still a forecast, not a guarantee, but we’re staying on track so far.

The Victoria Day weekend is no longer in jeopardy, and we have a good chance of the lake being entirely open for next weekend.

Boat access to islands close to Kenora, such as Town Island and Scotty Island, should now be just days away.

May 3, 2018: Winnipeg River

My flight today didn’t take me over the lake or close to Minaki, but we did briefly fly north of Kenora, so I did manage a couple of shots of the Winnipeg River from the south end.

The first picture looks north west from over the north end of Dufresne Island. The white stuff near the nose of the airplane is just a wispy little cloud. Locke Bay and Muriel Lake are in the middle distance. Still some ice there.

For this second shot, we’ve turned more north, so you can see Big Sand and Gun Lake near the horizon. Both are frozen. Closer to the foreground are the mouth of Locke Bay and Laurenson’s Island. The streaky bits at the bottom are the same cloud as in the previous picture.

That’s as close to Minaki as we went before we needed to turn towards the airport.

This is Lower Black Sturgeon, seen from the west. The ice there is melting along the shore and looks like it could go completely in the next few days if we stay warm and sunny. Silver Lake, visible in the distance, is a deep lake and will take much longer.

Kenora has three suburban lakes: Rabbit Lake, Round Lake and Laurenson’s Lake. I photographed Laurenson’s the other day, and it was starting to go. Today Round Lake, the smallest of the three,  went completely in a matter of hours. In the morning it was icy. By lunchtime it was opening up, after lunch there was only a small patch of candled ice at the downwind end.

I will be out of town for the weekend starting tomorrow, so there will be no fresh pictures for a few days. I won’t have access to my desktop computer, only my tablet,  so I will be limited  guest photos, if there are any, and updating the satellite links.

I expect the thaw will carry on without me.

May 2, 2018: Scenic Tour

We had a training flight today that covered a fair bit of the lake.

I’ll lead off with another look at Rat Portage Bay and Safety Bay.

The ice is letting go on Laurenson’s Lake, just right of center in this picture, and further away, the ice on Rat Portage Bay looks weaker, too.

Our second picture looks south east from Bare Point. Lunney’s Island is toward the left, and beyond it is Scotty Island. At the right side of the frame is Town Island.

If you zoom in, you’ll see little patches of water all over the place, but you can’t help but notice there’s a lot of ice out there still.

We went further in this direction, so our third picture is The Manitou.

That’s the western tip of Scotty Island at the lower left corner, and Whiskey Island is the isolated island in the white expanse that is the Manitou. Not so many holes out here; this part of the lake melts late.

Next we swung around to look at the Devil’s Elbow, the biggest patch of water near the Barrier Islands. Mather Island is at the right, Allie Island is near the middle of the picture.

Further south east, it’s all ice from Oliver Island, past Ferrier Island and pretty much all the way to Yellow Girl Bay.

We flew to Sioux Narrows.

This is taken from over Long Point Island, looking at Regina Bay. Mostly ice here.

For our next training exercise, we needed blue sky, so we turned west and headed for this gigantic “sucker hole” in the clouds.

That took us down the western end of Long Bay, so here’s a look at Whitefish Narrows. There are some promising patches of water there.

We climbed up higher, and caught this view as we turned north to stay in our patch of blue sky.

The distinctive island in the foreground is Cintiss Island, with Crescent Island behind it.  Beyond that, the span of the Barrier Islands, stretching from Crow Rock Island at the left to East Allie Island at the right.

There is open water at each narrows, but there’s also a lot of ice on the lake.

From our higher vantage point, we could clearly see Shoal Lake to our west.

The little lakes on the Western Peninsula are opening up, but Shoal Lake is deep and shows only tentative signs of opening up along the shores of Carl Bay, near the middle of this picture.

I thought you might like to see some real water, so here’s Big Narrows.

You’re looking east, with Ferris Island at the lower right. There’s open water all the way to Oak Bay, just above the middle of the picture, but Wiley Bay, to the left of it, is all ice.

Here’s a closer look at Wiley.

From here, the only water we see is on the shallow lakes of the Western Peninsula and along its shorelines.

On the home stretch back to Kenora and the airport, we caught this view of Poplar Bay. It’s mostly frozen; the dark patches are cloud shadows. The Tangle is open though.

Chasing patches of blue sky and steering away from aircraft inbound to Kenora set us roaming around today. I don’t often cover so much territory that I need to dig out four or five different marine charts, so I hope you enjoyed the tour.

If you’re in Kenora, it’s easy to form the impression that everything is melting fast, but there’s seventy-odd miles of lake you can’t see from town, and it’s mostly ice. It isn’t all going to melt this weekend.

We are making good progress, so our very late thaw can be upgraded to rather late.