July 19, 2021: US Border Update

The Canadian government has announced that starting on August 9th, fully vaccinated Americans will be allowed to visit Canada for non-essential reasons.

For more details, see this CBC News article.  It goes into what the rules are if you have kids under twelve, and so on.

Fully vaccinated means you must have had your final shot and waited the fourteen days for it to take full effect. You have to have a recent negative test for Covid, and there are other strings attached, too.

To prevent the line-ups at the border from getting unmanageable, you have to pre-register your vaccination status and some other details online, using ArriveCAN. It wouldn’t be practical for the immigration and customs agents to review people’s documents at the border, because there will be many different types of proof, depending on which state travellers were vaccinated in.

To learn about or download the ArriveCAN app, see here.

The current Covid situation in Kenora is quite good. We have only one active case of Coronavirus in Ontario’s Northwestern Health Unit, after several days in a row of none at all. The NWHU includes Kenora, Red Lake, Dryden, Sioux Lookout and so on. That one positive test is in Kenora.

In the meantime, we’re having a hot, dry summer. There are over a hundred forest fires burning in Northwestern Ontario. Kenora’s air quality looked like this today:

Approaching Lake of the Woods District Hospital on the Trans-Canada Highway.

Reported visibility at the Kenora Airport has been as low as 1/4 of a mile today. That’s poor enough to prevent aircraft from departing from the airport, even under Instrument Flight Rules.

Naturally, there is a ban on fires: we are in a Restricted Fire Zone, which means no outdoor fires, not even for cooking, and not even with a grate, fire pit or fireplace.

I also have personal news. After my temporary layoff dragged on for over a year, the company had to make it permanent in June. I am no longer employed as a pilot, and will probably not be returning to flying.

I hope to continue doing Ice Patrol with contributor photos, as I did while grounded by the pandemic for the last two springs.

April 17, 2021: Satellite Saturday / Travel Restrictions

Warm temperatures and sunny skies meant both Aqua and Terra satellites were able to get MODIS images of Lake of the Woods today.

Here’s what Terra saw this morning.

You can click on this image to see a version with tags for landmarks.

Terra satellite’s MODIS image for April 17, 2021, in false colour.

Looks like we’re down to about 10% ice cover now, but most of what remains is located where it still prevents boaters from reaching popular areas.

Here’s how it looked to Aqua in the afternoon, with less cloud cover.

Aqua satellite’s MODIS image for April 17, 2021, in false colour.

There are visible differences. For starters, the ice clinging to the lake’s south shore is markedly reduced. Perhaps more subtle, the northern ice is also shrinking by the hour. Take a close look at the ice sheet in Bigstone Bay north of Hay Island. It’s faded a lot today. I’d say the ice on Shoal Lake has thinned, too, but only a little.

And just in case you find the false colour version hard to assess, here’s the same image in true colour. [and with no infrared component]

Aqua satellite’s MODIS image for April 17, 2021, in true colour.

While Bigstone Bay is undergoing rapid change, things seem more stable on the Manitou, at least as seen from space.

Devon Ostir sent me a picture from his Dock Cam on Hare Island, looking out at the receding ice on the Manitou.

View south from Hare Island.

He says there’s been a big change in the last day or two. Thanks Devon.

Change of subject.

By now you’ve probably heard that Ontario is closing its borders with Manitoba and Quebec for all but essential travel, starting tomorrow. Here’s a link to a CBC News story that covers Ontario’s new restrictions in general, including a link to the Order in Council that pertains to travel from Manitoba and Quebec.

And here’s the official wording of Section 2 of the Order in Council.

Certain travel into Ontario from Manitoba and Quebec prohibited
No person shall travel into Ontario from Manitoba or Quebec unless,
(a) the person’s principal residence is in Ontario;
(b) the person is moving to Ontario in order to make their principal residence in Ontario;
(c) the person is travelling through Ontario without unnecessary stops to reach their principal residence in another jurisdiction;
(d) the person is travelling into or through Ontario by means of an international or interprovincial bus, train, ferry, or flight;
(e) the person is travelling to perform work in Ontario;
(f) the person is transporting goods into or through Ontario as part of the operation of a business that involves the transportation of goods;
(g) the person’s health makes it necessary to travel into Ontario to obtain health care or social services;
(h) the person is travelling in a vehicle that is transporting or that will transport a person in Ontario to or from a hospital or health care facility in Manitoba or Quebec;
(i) the person is being transported from a hospital or health care facility in Manitoba or Quebec, whether by ambulance or by any other means;
(j) the person is,
(i) in the care of a children’s aid society in Ontario pursuant to a court order or a written agreement,
(ii) in the care of a person subject to the supervision of a children’s aid society in Ontario pursuant to a court order or a written agreement, or
(iii) at least 16 years old and no more than 21 years old and receiving care, services or support pursuant to an agreement with a children’s aid society in Ontario;
(k) the person must enter Ontario to exercise custody or access rights contained in an agreement;
(l) the person must enter Ontario to comply with an order contained in a decision or judgment of a court or tribunal, or as otherwise required by law;
(m) the person is travelling into Ontario for the purpose of exercising an Aboriginal or treaty right as recognized and affirmed by section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982;
(n) the person is travelling into Ontario to respond to a critical incident, including travel for the purpose of,
(i) preventing injury or illness to persons,
(ii) preventing damage to property, or
(iii) performing a necessary action to respond to the critical incident; or
(o) the travel is necessary for a humanitarian or compassionate reason, such as,
(i) providing care or services to a person who requires them due to their state of health,
(ii) attending on a person who is dying, or
(iii) attending a funeral.

From the point of view of a cottage owner, that’s very restrictive. I’ve only copied out Section 2 here, but you can use the link to the Order in Council above to read the PDF in its entirety. Section 1 is about who can police the act, and Section 3 is about the obligations of people who are stopped under its provisions.


April 16, 2021: Today’s Photos / News

These aerial photographs were taken just before noon today, by MAG Canada‘s Justin Martin.

You can click on these pictures to see a larger, zoomable version.

Hay Island.

Looking north west along Hay Island towards Middle Island and Scotty Island. Needle Point is at the lower right corner.

Pine Portage Bay, Sultana Island, Bald Indian Bay.

This same pan of ice was photographed yesterday afternoon by Quinn Wilson. It looks thinner now. It also shrank noticeably in the span of twenty hours, and lost some of the smaller pans that surrounded it.

Pine Portage Bay, including Northern Harbour.

I waited a bit to see if I got any late arriving photos, or if one of the satellites managed to catch a break in the cloud cover, but it looks like that’s it for today.

Oh. No it’s not. I forgot to check the news today. This Covid-19 update about provincial border checkpoints from CBC News. 

We’re just days away from full ice-out now, and some popular areas of the lake are already reachable.

For the rest, a lot may depend on our weekend weather. As if to keep the suspense going, it’s a mixed bag. The Weather Network says we’re looking at a crisp -7°C tonight, but temperatures should rebound to 10° by Saturday afternoon.


April 10, 2021: Satellite Saturday / Multiple Contributors

Okay, this is going to be a long post, because several people sent me stuff.

But first, the week’s big news.

Ontario has gone back into lockdown, and this time it includes a stay-at-home order.

Here’s the wording from the alert that popped up on my phone:

A stay-at-home order is in effect. Only leave home for essential purposes such as food, health care, vaccines, exercise or work. It’s the law. Stay home, save lives.

And here’s a link to some more detailed information.

I have not found any specific wording about visiting summer residences in the new order. I have enquired, but it may take a while to get a response. The old rules from the previous lockdown were that you could: A) visit your camp for up to 24 hours to perform necessary maintenance, in which case you cannot be in contact with anyone, or B) isolate for 14 days, so you’d have to bring gas and food with you to last for for two weeks before you could go shopping.

It gets more complicated if you are visiting from Manitoba, as you might also have to isolate for 14 days upon your return, but I’ve been told this needn’t apply as long as you adhere to the Ontario requirements while here.

Here’s an excerpt from the Manitoba government website that was updated on April 8:

As per the public health order, 14 days of self-isolation is required for people returning or coming to Manitoba from all jurisdictions.

Now back to a more comfortable topic: the weather. The NASA satellites got good images on April 6, and then it turned cloudy until today.

Here’s what things looked like on Tuesday the 6th.

If you click on this image, you’ll see a version with some landmarks tagged.

Aqua satellite’s MODIS image from April 6, 2021, in false colour.

Today’s images haven’t been uploaded yet.

In the meantime, I have a picture from Devon Ostir, whose dock cam on Hare Island looks out on the Manitou.

With the exception of the satellite imagery, you can click on today’s pictures to see a full-screen version that is zoomable.

Next up, a drone shot of Keewatin Channel, courtesy of Paul Leischow.

I chose this specific shot from over Crowe Island because it shows that the water is open all the way to Keewatin. Actually, there’s a whole 360° panorama, and you can view it here if you want to scope out Rat Portage Bay or the Tangle from this vantage point.

Now photos from Josh Broten, and they are very revealing.

Over Buffalo Bay looking east to Garden Island.

Looking east at the big ice patch between Garden, Big, and Oak Island.

Over Windfall Island looking north between Falcon Island and the Western Peninsula.

Looking SW over Bishop Bay with Shoal Lake in the distance.

Over Skeet Island looking NNE.

Over Yellow Girl Point looking SE down Long Bay.

Aside from the huge stretches of open water, the key point is that all over the south end of the lake, the ice has separated from the shore. It’s still in enormous sheets, but it will start to break apart into pans soon.

Further north, where there are more islands and less vast stretches of water, the progress does not look as dramatic, but it’s following a similar path.

In case you missed it, regular commenter Stu Everett pointed out the other day that when current through the lake is slow in  winter, the ice forms to a more even thickness all over the lake, and sets up a situation where the big slow-moving parts of the lake are melting almost as fast as the places that usually have more current.

Before I forget, special thanks to all the people who sent in pictures or messages today.

The first of today’s satellite images is available.

Terra satellite’s MODIS image for April 10, 2021, in false colour.

Pity about the cloud cover [low altitude cumulus clouds at the left, made of water vapour, high level cirrus clouds with more ice at the right] but you can see the same trend photographed by Josh.

UPDATE: Aqua’s image is up.

Aqua satellite’s MODIS image from April 10, 2021, in false colour.

Still some cloud, but it’s moved a little, revealing different parts of the lake.

The big question is: have we reached the tipping point? Once the ice breaks up, the end is very near, because wind action becomes a major factor. I think we’re almost there.

So naturally, the forecast is for some cool temperatures. The Weather Network has revised the fourteen day forecast since I last talked about it, and it now shows Monday as the coolest, with temps hovering around the freezing point all day. After that, daytime highs may run a little below normal for the next two weeks, while overnight lows are kind of 50/50.

Will the ice go? Your guess is as good as mine.

April 4, 2021: Shoal Lake to Kenora

Some new aerial photographs from Josh Broten, and also the first drone picture of the year, taken by George Dyker over Clytie Bay, a popular cottage area on Shoal Lake. All were taken Saturday.

Let’s start with Josh’s overview of Shoal.

You can click on these pictures to see them full screen and full size.

Northwest Angle, Shoal Lake.

Looking north from over the Northwest Angle towards Shoal Lake. Lots of water and only pan ice in the Angle. In the distance, the ice looks poor on Shoal.

Monument Bay, Shoal Lake.

Here’s a slightly closer look at Shoal, with the camera pointing north west over Monument Bay, so that Shoal Lakes large Dominique and Stevens Island appear side by side. Mason Lake and part of Reid Lake are a the right side of the frame.

Now George Dyker’s drone shot of Clytie Bay on Shoal. George operates a DJI drone.

Shoal Lake’s Clytie Bay.

This view looks south west, with the open water at Gateway Point in the foreground. That ice road that heads off onto the main body of the lake looks to be in one piece, but it’s riddled with cracks.

Now, back to our tour with Josh’s Cub, picking things up at the south end of the lake, where Josh is based.

Oak Island, Flag Island, Brush Island.

We’re back by the NW Angle, looking at the area by the international border. The open water is mainly by Flag Island, which has a webcam, by the way. You can find a link to it on the Lake of the Woods Links sidebar.*

*When viewed on a desktop or large tablet, Ice Patrol offers a number of features on a sidebar to the right of the main column. These include Recent Comments, a Search Tool, a Flag Counter, the Archive Tool, and an extensive list of links that may be of interest to lake dwellers and visitors.  However, if you’re in the habit of viewing Ice Patrol on a phone, or via the email subscriber list, you may not see the sidebar.

Also a link to my writing blog. Support me by buying my SF novel, AVIANS. It’s about girl power, alternative aviation, and volcanoes! E-book and trade paperbacks available. Averaging 4.5% stars last time I checked.

Oak Point, Big Narrows.

Looking south. The patch of open water in the foreground is right at Oak Point, and there’s open water almost all the way through Big Narrows. At the left, on the far side of Big Narrows Island and Tranquil Channel, there’s some open water through French Portage Narrows.

Chisholm Island, Cliff Island.

Looking north west, with Chisholm Island at the bottom of the frame, and Cliff Island at the left. The Alneau Peninsula is just off the picture to the left, and the Barrier Islands are near the upper right corner. Prominent pressure ridges show the strain on the ice.

Let’s finish Josh’s tour with a shot of the Kenora area.

Poplar Bay, Keewatin Channel, Rat Portage Bay.

Centered on Keewatin Channel, this picture looks north east towards Rat Portage Bay, Safety Bay and Kenora. Poplar Bay is in the lower left corner.

The ice is weakening, slowly but steadily. Warm temperatures all week, with daily highs in the double digits, should help.

In the meantime, a reminder. Ontario went back into a province-wide lockdown on Saturday, April 3rd, and is expected to stay that way for a four week “emergency brake.” Hairdressers are closed, restaurants are take-out only, and stores are restricted to half or quarter occupancy, depending on how essential they are. More details here.



March 11, 2021: The Return of Ice Patrol

Okay, I see site visitor statistics are on the rise, so I better say hi!

First off, welcome to spring of 2021. Not gonna ask how your year went since I closed off last May: there was much gloom for many. I hope you’re doing okay.

Now, I have good news and bad news. Ice Patrol continues to face challenges. Most importantly, I’m still not flying, so I won’t be able to provide the level of coverage of past years. I hope some of my regular guest contributors will come through again this year*. And, of course, we’ll have the satellite imagery. I can’t resist the temptation to paraphrase Humphrey Bogart from Casablanca: “We’ll always have MODIS.”

*folks, that is a HINT!

The other reason I was holding back on making an earlier start with Ice Patrol this spring is that I am running out of digital storage space on my free WordPress account. Those high-resolution photographs are huge files, which is one reason why I have to pick and choose which ones to put up. I had planned to upgrade to a more expensive plan, but that isn’t practical while I’m not working.

However, I think I have found a technical solution for this. WordPress will allow me to open a second free account, and move the old content to it, freeing up room for more new content here. This will result in some technical issues with accessing the archives while I go through the process. Crossing my fingers that I don’t lose or break anything during the move.

Okay, enough of that. Let’s talk about the ice. About a week ago, I heard that the ice roads were holding up, but that the landings were in rough shape. I also overheard someone express grave distrust in the overall condition of the ice, given our mostly mild winter. There have been trucks hauling gravel or crushed rock, and those weightier vehicles have contributed to chewing away at the ice on the shorelines. There are reports that one of those big trucks went through the ice in a shallow, marshy spot down around Flag Island.

I just got confirmation that one regular ice-fishing family pulled their shack off last week, rather than risk poor conditions. We’ve had more mild weather since then, so I imagine the roads are getting sloppy.

In the coming days, I plan to take a look at the temperature data from the winter to see what insight that might offer into our ice conditions. In general, the winter was mild, with the exception of brutal cold in February.

Signs of Spring: a few Canada geese and some early ducks (goldeneyes) have been spotted. A friend saw a swan! Streets are mainly bare, snow piles are shrinking, the snow sculptures on the harbourfront have collapsed. Tunnel Island trails are slushy, icy and very slippery. Do not fall: dog poop is surfacing by the bushel. Ahem, there are free bags and a disposal bin!

The Border: the international border remains closed to non-essential traffic. Some snowbirds did go south by air, despite warnings, and will be allowed to return, but they will face quarantine restrictions upon entry. A hotel stay will be mandatory, and Covid tests before and after arrival will be required. No word on opening the border to US citizens.

Covid update: the number of cases in and around Kenora has been jumping up and down, but the trend is upwards, with more hospitalizations. You can check for the latest info at Kenora Online’s Covid page. Canada has much lower infection rates than the US, but our vaccination program is lagging behind. Southern Ontario is beginning to experiment with using pharmacies as vaccination sites in some key regions, but a general roll-out that extends to this area is still pending. So far, this region has only a limited program for giving Moderna vaccine to those most at risk. An online portal for booking appointments will soon go live for Ontario, but it will be restricted to those over 80 at first. The website of the Northwest Health Unit posts updates on vaccine availability. No word yet on when I might be able to get a shot.

May 10, 2020: Ice Free

With temperatures below freezing last night and most of this morning, I wasn’t sure if it was safe to say all the ice is gone. The largest patch remaining was on Bigstone Bay, which was going fast on May 8th.  My sources there tell me it vanished yesterday.

So I’m calling Lake of the Woods ice-free as of May 9th this year.

Brick Graph

On the Brick Graph, 2020 falls near the middle of the pack. That’s kind of disappointing for a spring that had relatively thin ice.

You can click on the graphs to see them full-screen.

The “Jenga” or Pancake Graph tracks the thaw from the Inflection Date (when the mean daily temperature rose above freezing on a lasting basis) to the day Lake of the Woods is ice-free. Years are stacked chronologically, with the most recent year at the top. The 2020 final version looks like this:

Pancake Graph

The thaw went fast after the air temperature rose above freezing. It’s probably safe to assume that a lot of the ice was melted from below, by the lake water, before air temperature had a go. This graph doesn’t attempt to factor that in, so it shows this year’s seventeen days as the most rapid thaw in recent years, after getting off to a late start.

The more I learn, the more I realize I don’t know enough. There are so many factors at work: ice thickness, snow cover, air temperature, sunshine, wind, rain, water levels and current. One year, my predicted date will be correct. And you know what? It won’t be from correctly calculating the effect of all those things. It’ll be a fluke.

Speaking of things I’m unqualified to comment on, I had some people ask if I know anything about when the Canada-USA border might open. Well, no, I don’t.

But I can certainly see that it doesn’t make sense let Americans flow freely into the country while we’re still trying to keep Canadians separated from one another to reduce the risk of exposure.

The two countries have chosen very different strategies, and they can’t really be melded. While Canadians are being paid to sit tight, and have the assurance of medical coverage whether they work or not, the US has leaned towards sending people back to work, even going so far as to open places like meat-processing plants despite high rates of infection.

It’s a safe bet that the rate of exposure is much higher in the US than here. It certainly is in places like New York. Until recently, only sick people were getting tested, but we need to know how widespread the infection is in the general populations of both countries.

If the US approaches “herd immunity” numbers while exposure in Canada is still relatively rare, opening the border would cause a huge outbreak here.

So I think it might have to wait a while, and it’s quite likely going to cause problems of one kind or another.



May 8, 2020: Sentinel

I often post satellite images from the MODIS cameras on NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites. The University of Wisconsin at Madison posts fresh images every day, and the highest available resolution is 250 metres to a pixel. That means you can see features as small as Kenora’s Round Lake, or Gun Club Island, but they’re just dots.

Today, Hilary Dugan, a limnologist from Madison, sent me a satellite picture of Lake of the Woods taken yesterday by the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-2 satellite. It’s at much higher resolution: 10 metres to a pixel. You can see roads.

Naturally, I was eager to upload this image to Ice Patrol, but I cannot: it’s too big! It’s about forty times the size of my average photo. It would take all night to upload, and it would pretty much wipe out my remaining storage space at WordPress. So I can’t show you the whole lake at maximum detail. But I can show you the bit with ice remaining on it.

You should absolutely click on this picture to see it full-screen, and then click again to zoom it to the full resolution.

The last two patches of ice on Lake of the Woods.

At the top right corner of the frame is Northern Harbour. The ice on Bigstone Bay is clearly visible between Heenan Point on the mainland and Needle Point on Hay Island. You can even see  remnants of the ice roads. The pale blotches over and around Sultana Island are clouds. I’m less sure of the pale patch south of Copper Island. I’m leaning towards cloud for that one.

At the bottom of the picture, the large island is Ferrier. The remaining patch of ice is within a triangle tipped by Robertson Island to the north west, Whiteout Island to the south west, and Craig Island to the east. This is the same patch of ice identified by Josh Broten a few days ago. At that time, he described it as being near Brittania Island, Cintiss Island and Gill Island, so it’s a lot smaller now.

Aside from the impracticality due to the size of the images this satellite produces, there’s another disadvantage: the Sentinel system doesn’t attempt to image Lake of the Woods very often. Subtract the cloudy days, and several weeks can go by without a picture. The timing on this one was great, but Sentinel images aren’t going to be a regular feature on Satellite Saturdays.

Hilary sent me a reduced image that shows the whole lake, but at a more manageable file size. It’s not as detailed as the section above, but you can see everything including Shoal Lake. Thanks, Hilary.

Lake of the Woods, May 7, 2020.

Speaking of Shoal Lake, the ice patch there is much larger than anything on Lake of the Woods, and will last a few days longer. This has happened every spring I can remember, except last year, when Shoal Lake cleared a few days before LotW.

On another topic, Peg from Texas wrote to ask how we’re making out with the pandemic, and what it’s like here. First off, the best place I’ve found to get updates is KenoraOnline’s COVID-19 Info page. It covers topics as local as what’s going on at the hospital (elective surgery might resume in a while), ranging up to announcements from Ontario’s Premier, Doug Ford. Recently, he rejected requests that the province phase in re-opening on a region-by-region basis.

I’ll add some first-hand perspective that might be hard to pick out of the official news.

Restaurants and Bars: Unlike Manitoba, restaurants are not open, not even patios.  SOME restaurants are offering delivery or take-out, and of those, some are only doing it for limited hours, or a few days a week. Bars and lounges are closed. Non-essential businesses are closed.

Groceries: Keewatin Place was closed last time I checked. Correction: Keewatin Place is taking orders through their website and offering curbside pick-up. Safeway, No-Frills, the Wholesale Club, Wal-Mart, and the LCBO are still restricting the number of customers in the store: you have to line up outside to get in. You’re supposed to send one shopper for family, so there are very few children in the stores. One-way arrows assist physical distancing by limiting the number of people you meet coming the other way. Masks are fairly common, but I wouldn’t say they’re in the majority. The temporary arrows at Safeway and Wal-Mart have been replaced my more permanent ones, so I think they’re going to be staying. On the other hand, some of the barricades that turned the stores into a maze have been removed, allowing a little more freedom of movement.

Until now, hardware stores have not been open, but you could phone in an order, pay in advance and wait outside to pick it up. That may change soon. To quote from a news item about easing Ontario’s restrictions on KenoraOnline,  “Hardware stores and safety supply stores will be permitted to open for in-store payment and purchases as soon as Saturday, May 9. On Monday, May 11 retail stores with a street entrance can begin offering curbside pickup and delivery…”

Of course, it may take some time to get everything ready and up to the required standards.

Greenhouses can open, but Debbie’s Greenhouse is not open yet. According to their website, they’ll open when they’re ready to do it safely, and an announcement about the timing of that could come on Monday, May 11th.

I can’t make this a more comprehensive list, because I haven’t been out much. Hopefully, it will give an idea.

May 3, 2020: Tipping Point

Yes it snowed last night. Not a lot, but I had to scrape the car windows.

Yesterday, I talked about the trade-off between strong winds and low temperatures. When the lake is ice-covered, wind doesn’t make a lot of difference, so the near-freezing temperatures would win out. But once the lake is about one third open, wind can push the ice around and break it up. I wasn’t sure how this would play out while conditions were so cold, but the wind won.

My first clue was a comment from Minnie, who wrote to say she saw nothing but open water from the south shore. She was down by Morris Point and Warroad. Now you can’t see all that far from the shore, but Josh Broten takes his Cub up to ten thousand feet to get pictures from the US side, and from there, you can see a long way. Here’s what he got this afternoon.

You can click on these pictures to see a full-screen, zoomable version.

Big Traverse

So Minnie was right on. Not a scrap of ice to be seen on the south end of the lake.

Moose Lake

Moose Lake Provincial Park (middle distance) and Birch Point (foreground) are in the Manitoba corner of Lake of the Woods. No ice here, either.

Looking north east from the Northwest Angle

Clipper Island is at the lower left of this shot, Cochrane Island is almost touching the left edge, and Big Narrows is in the distance. That far-off ice is up towards Wiley Point, somewhere around Cintiss Island

Looking northeast  from over Falcon Island.

Beyond Falcon Island lies French Portage Narrows. At the left of the frame, near the wing strut, is Big Narrows. That’s the same patch of ice in the far distance.


Shoal Lake

I love this shot of Shoal Lake. There’s still a giant patch of white ice around Dominique and Stevens Islands, but the lake looks to be over half open, not just on the south shore, but also in the northern parts near the Trans-Canada highway.

In case you were wondering, it takes a long time to climb to ten thousand feet in a Cub. Thanks, Josh.

The Aqua and Terra satellites didn’t get a clear look at Lake of the Woods today, but skies cleared enough this afternoon for Aqua to get a partial view.

2020 False colour image from May 3rd. MODIS camera on NASA’s Aqua satellite.

What we can see is all that open water at the south end, and the patch of ice on Shoal Lake at the left. Subtle, but visible, is ice near Hay Island. The part of the lake south of the Barrier Islands is very hard to see. I think there’s some ice there.

Compare this to the clear and sharp image from April 30th.

2020 False colour image from April 30th. MODIS camera on NASA’s Aqua satellite.

Same satellite, same camera, just three days ago!

That’s why this post is titled Tipping Point. Once the ice is more than half gone, it goes suddenly.

However, if it seems cool to you for May, it is. A normal high this time of year is about 15ºC, and an average overnight low would be about 3ºC. Forecast temperatures continue to run cooler than that, with this week getting no warmer than 10ºC and perhaps only reaching  4º on Thursday. Overnight lows could dip as low as -4ºC.

Will we be able to melt the lake with those kinds of temperatures? Yes. But I’m not sure how rapidly. With normal temperatures, I’d expect the remaining ice to be gone in a couple of days, which would put us in the early May bracket, which is pretty common. With this forecast, I’m less sure, but I think we’re on track to do better than the May 14th thaw that Sean and I both predicted just a week ago.

We might be ice free by next weekend. Which is forecast to be cold, by the way. So far, the Weather Network is calling for highs of just six or seven next weekend.

And if that’s not enough to discourage you, remember that Ontario is not moving to lift pandemic restrictions as fast as Manitoba or Quebec, and Premier Doug Ford is flat-out asking out-of-province visitors to stay home. Here’s a link to Kenora Online‘s page with that story.


April 18, 2020: Cold April / Josh Broten / Satellite Saturday

It’s been quite cool since I last posted an update, with some recent overnight lows dipping to the -12 to -16ºC range. Those were the worst nights, but daytime highs have rarely reached seasonal norms.

On Tunnel Island, fresh ice formed on the duck pond every night, and retreated each afternoon. It hasn’t been ice-free yet.

Over the last weeks, typical temperatures for this time of year would be highs of about 9ºC paired with lows just below freezing. In the later weeks of April, those average highs rise a few degrees.

Friday was supposed to be the warmest day in a while, and it still fell short of normal.

As for the rest of the month, there aren’t any warm spells forecast, just a string of almost normal temperatures.

Signs of spring: gnats are out. I inhaled one today. But it’s still not warm enough to take the winter tires off.

Here are some aerial photos from regular contributor Josh Broten. He’s based out of Rosseau, MN, so he takes pictures at the south west corner of the lake.

This one shows the condition of the ice at the south end of the lake. You can see it’s rotten, candling, and has patches of surface water.

You can click on Josh’s pictures to see them full-screen and zoomable to full resolution.

This is the Northwest Angle, looking north with Shoal Lake in the background. Josh says he doesn’t see any water on Shoal yet.

Here’s Josh’s look north east at Big Narrows, Tranquil Channel and French Portage Narrows.  Most of what you see in this picture is Falcon Island. The bay in the foreground with the island that looks like a fidget spinner is Deepwater Bay.

Thanks, Josh.

There haven’t been many good satellite images recently. There were cloudy days and some of the good days had blurred pictures for our area. Here’s one from yesterday.

The satellite images are not zoomable: the resolution is one pixel for a quarter of a square kilometer. If you click on it (if I did it right) you’ll see an archive image with  some features of the lake marked to help you get oriented.

This is from the MODIS camera on NASA’s Aqua satellite. Despite the focus being a bit soft, you can make out the open water at Big Narrows, and you can see that although the ice is still widespread, the condition of it is weakening.

Aside from the cool temperatures, there are other impediments to lake life this season.

This quote from FOCA, the Federation of Ontario Cottagers’ Associations, regarding marinas:

…as reported by our colleagues at Boating Ontario, many marinas are currently not allowing any launches or mooring, and/or are on restricted access for service or repair. While marinas are listed among Ontario’s “essential services” the posting notes “only to the extent that the marina is necessary to enable individuals to access their primary place of residence.” See an April 10, 2020 letter to Boating Ontario from MTO. For links to several postings, visit: https://www.facebook.com/BoatingOntario.ca/

Retail businesses are also transformed. You can only buy limited quantities of toilet paper, hand sanitizer, bleach, and other items in high demand. People wearing masks are becoming a more common sight.

Wal-Mart, Safeway, and the LCBO and others are restricting the number of shoppers in the store, and are doing the one-way traffic thing in the aisles with floor arrows. Many other outlets, such as Canadian Tire and Home Hardware, only allow telephone ordering and pickup.

Kenora has its first confirmed case of Covid-19. The person is said to acquired the virus out of province, and is now self-isolating, having had few contacts.

Sorry to harp on it, but inessential travel is not recommended.

Health authorities say, “Covid season is not cottage season.”