May 13, 2022: Forecast Friday

Soon, the ice-out date will be history, and not a matter for forecasts.

But while we still have a little ice left, here’s Sean’s last take on it for this year.

Remember, you can click on this graph to see it large and sharp.

Lake of the Woods Thaw Forecast.

This year’s temperature profile (the blue line) runs parallel to the best case example from 2007 (the red line). Since last week, Sean has updated the path of the blue line to replace forecast temperatures with actual ones up to the present.

His conclusion? Based on temperatures, the lake should be entirely ice-free in the evening of May 17th.

Temperatures are not the only factor in play, though, so there’s still some wiggle room for wind and high humidity to get rid of the ice even faster. Certainly it is very windy today. I think it’s possible that the ice might be gone a day or so earlier than the temperatures suggest.

In the meantime, although there is still ice present, many people will be able to reach their cottages by boat already. For those who cannot, yet, it is only a matter of days.

Satellite imagery is a bit of a tease lately, because of cloud. Yesterday, Terra satellite was able to see only the south west corner of the lake. Today, Aqua got a look at only the east side. In both cases, there was no significant ice visible, but we’re reaching the stage where it would be hard to spot from space.

Lake levels continue to rise. Water is flowing into Lake of the Woods faster than it can be let out. Sean calculates that the surplus amounts to an olympic-sized swimming pool’s worth of water every second and a half. That would raise the lake by an inch and a quarter every day. If that continued for a week, it would come to another fifteen inches, but nobody knows exactly how long the inflow will remain so high.

As mentioned on Ice Patrol yesterday, the water level of the Winnipeg River is so high that it’s raising the water level in and around the Black Sturgeon Lakes. That’s washed out a number of roads, and resulted in an evacuation order for a lot of people that live north of the Kenora Bypass. The evacuees will have a narrow window to get out. The City of Kenora Works Department is attempting to re-open one route with heavy equipment, and they think they can keep that road passable for four hours this afternoon. After that, the floodwaters will close off all the ways out.

You can read more–and see a map of the affected area–at Kenora Online.

 

 

 

May 12, 2022: It’s All Going

I wasn’t expecting pictures today because of the heavy rainfall warning. But the weather has been better than expected so far, and I received three great sets.

Before we start with the pictures, the comments form is overflowing with people reporting that various places are open, or opening fast.

Let’s back those assertions up with some evidence. First up, aerial photos from James Hendy at River Air. He’s another of my former colleagues from decades ago.

You can click on these pictures to see larger versions that reveal more detail.

James started at Poplar Bay.

Poplar Bay.

It’s partly open, but there’s ice at the south end. Let’s take a closer look.

Poplar Bay, Welcome Channel, Wolf Island, Hare Island.

Next, James cruised out to the Manitou. The first view looks roughly south.

 

The Manitou. Whisky Island at the right, Barrier Islands in the distance.

Still ice here, and the ice roads haven’t broken apart yet. The Manitou is one of the last places to let go, but once things reach this stage of soft ice, it’s very vulnerable to wind.

Looking more to the south west shows the western stretch of the Manitou.

West Manitou. Crow Rock Island at the upper centre.

Then back towards Kenora. The ability to reach Scotty Island is a key milestone in boat access.

 

Scotty Island in the distance.

I’ve heard from BB Camps that Town Island is accessible, and it looks like you can make it to Scotty Island now. More about the beach there, later.

Thanks, James!

Our second set of photos come from contributor Scott Benson.

Over Sugar Bay looking east down Clearwater Bay. It’s open water west of here. Frozen east and south.

Scotty’s beach in foreground looking east over Bigstone Bay.

That beach is looking pretty waterlogged. I like the little cluster of ice-road fragments, though.

Looking north over Shammis Island where the main ice road crosses. This area of the lake is 90+% ice at this point.

I’ve said it before, but the ice roads are the last things to let go. This broken one shows how close we are to total ice-out.

Over Ash Bay looking east at the grouping of islands including S Island and north up Corkscrew Channel. Open around S island and frozen to the east towards Whiskey island.

There’s still quite a lot of ice out there, but it’s almost all candled. Basically it’s just fancy ice cubes (well, hexagons, actually) floating around and keeping each other company.

Just west of Victoria Island looking north at Mud Portage, and Woodchuck/Deception bays in the distance. Woodchuck and Deception are ice free.

Over the entrance to Echo bay looking east down Ptarmigan Bay, Zig Zag island in the center. Ice free north of Zig Zag island.

Looking south east at Echo Bay. About 1/2 open water.

West Hawk Lake. This ice has been pushed around by the wind for the past 3 days and won’t last long.

I have had at least one report that West Hawk Lake is wide open. Consider that if an observer was standing on the far shore, they would not be able to see this ice remnant on the west side.

Looking south over Shoal Lake. Some areas open (maybe 5-10%) ice in the middle looks white, the strongest ice I spotted today.

Oh, good. I just had someone asking about Shoal Lake. Typically, Shoal Lake’s ice lasts a few days longer than it does on Lake of the Woods. There’s a pretty big pan there, but I don’t think it will last through the weekend.

Scott was kind enough to write captions for his pictures, saving me a lot of work. Thanks, Scott!

But wait, there’s more.

Here’s a picture  of the ice at Clearwater Bay from Brendon Thiessen that came in while I was writing this post.

This was taken at 2pm today (12/05/2022). Looking Northwest from Big Duck Island toward Sugar Bay.

Brendon was using a drone to check on his docks, (they’re fine) and sent me this to show the ice. Thanks, Brendon!

I’ll finish with a set of aerial photos from MAG Canada’s Justin Martin.

We’ll start with Northern Harbour, because I’ve been curious about it for a  couple of days.

Pine Portage Bay, Sultana Island and Bald Indian Bay.

There’s water around the docks now, but before you phone Northern Harbour, take note that there’s not actually a clear route out of Pine Portage Bay yet.

From Bare Point, Looking west towards Treaty Island.

It looks as if you could take a boat out through Devil’s Gap now. There’s still a lot of pan ice, though, so you’d want to be careful not to get trapped.

Middle Island and Scotty Island.

The same applies if you try to go beyond Scotty Island. Large pans of ice, moving around because of wind and current. South of the Barrier Islands, those sheets are massive. We’ll take a closer look in a minute.

But first, Corkscrew Island, Ptarmigan Bay and Clearwater Bay.

 

Corkscrew Island, looking west towards Zigzag Island.

Now the Barrier Islands, and the huge ice sheet south of them.

East Allie Island and Allie Island, looking over those Barrier Islands at the ice to the south.

Most years, that ice covered area is the last to go. Small pans of this may survive for several more days.

Thanks for these, Justin!

This last shot from Justin is a little different.

Judging by the Kenora Airport in the background, this is the Essex Road. As you can see, a lengthy stretch of it is underwater.

This is not the only road in the region to be flooded or washed out. The problem in this location is that the Winnipeg River is now higher than the Black Sturgeon Lakes, causing their water levels to rise.

It’s raining as I write this, and we have another heavy rainfall warning, so water levels in the whole drainage basin of Lake of the Woods are sure to continue rising.

As far as the ice is concerned, it’s melting everywhere, and it’s melting fast. It won’t be long now.

 

 

May 12, 2022: Lost & Found

I don’t plan a full post today, but there are some minor things that I should mention.

John Dahl reports that the ice is gone from Laurenson’s Lake. In his words:

Today, May 11th, our lake was completely ice free. Second latest date we have over the past 30 or so years. Latest was in 1996 when it was ice free May 13th by our records.

From the comments form, Susan reports that there is still solid ice on Clearwater Bay, and says there’s lots of dock damage due to recent wind, high water and ice.

Which brings us to why this post is called Lost & Found.

When I’m hiking the trails on Tunnel Island, I usually pick up any lost items I come across and take them to the trail map at the parking lot. Mittens, mostly.

However, yesterday I spotted this on the Winnipeg River, and it was too big for that.

 

It’s a dock, and it still has rocks on it that were intended to weigh it down. So if you have a place on the river, not far below the Norman Dam, maybe check to see if something is missing from your waterfront.

The owner of the dock has been located. He has already secured it and will retrieve it soon.

Apologies to everyone who hoped that this might be theirs. It seems a number of people are missing docks from a range of places.

 

 

 

April 1, 2020: Fresh pictures

I didn’t expect to be flying this week, but I did get a trip this evening. I grabbed a couple of quick photos of the downtown area as we departed.

Remember, you can click on most of these pictures to see the full resolution, zoomable version.

This picture looks west, with Treaty Island in the middle of the frame. Just to the right of it, you can see a small patch of open water downstream of Devil’s Gap near Goat Island and Johnson Island.  Beyond Treaty Island, the sun glints off the water in Keewatin Channel, near Anglican Island.

This second picture, taken just moments later, is centred on downtown Kenora. At the left, it shows Devil’s Gap more clearly. There is extensive open water in Safety Bay, and at the headwaters of the Winnipeg River.

I tried to take more pictures on my return, but the light was fading, and the contrast was too poor.

Now for a couple of contributor pictures taken earlier.

Graham Gork took these pictures of Norman Bay just before noon today.

From downtown Kenora, it looks like vast stretches of the lake are open.

Remember, there are strong currents all along the Keewatin to Kenora shoreline, and this area opens up while the rest of the lake is still frozen.

Now some pictures from yesterday.

John Wallis writes:  “I took these yesterday about 11:30 AM [Tuesday]. The first is Western Ptarmigan Bay with Copper Island in the background. A bit of slush on the ice as can be seen with these darker areas. The road surface is in the immediate foreground and was nice and solid.
“Second is the road at Rush Bay Landing. Ice is okay, but developing potholes just before the ramp.”

So that gives us some idea of  conditions at the west end of the lake.

Josh Broten checked in again from the south. He says there hasn’t been much change, but he did take his Cub down lower for this look at the water between Falcon Island and Windfall Island.

Lastly, graph guy Sean Cockrem has been studying the data, and he says:

“I would say we hit our inflection date on March 26th this year. The forecast does show that it cools off a bit down the road but for now I’d feel safe saying we are there.

“Looking at the final freezing index, this was the warmest winter we’ve had since I started doing this type of analysis, starting in the spring of 2018 if I recall correctly. And this is one of the earliest inflection dates as well.

“All that is to say, that as long as we just see average temps, there shouldn’t be ice on the lake for the long weekend and in fact, possibly even by May 1st the lake will be open.”

I’d like to thank all today’s contributors. I’d always hoped that Ice Patrol could become a place where we could share our information, and it seems to be happening.

March 7, 2020: Bulletins

First, this notice from the City of Kenora, issued March 4th:

On Monday, March 9th the winter road access on Coney Island will be closed for the season.
Residents with vehicles on the island should consider moving [them] before the chain across the road is locked preventing vehicles from returning to mainland.
Thank you for your cooperation.

This marks the beginning of the end for the ice roads. If this seems early, don’t be too surprised: the Lake of the Woods Control Board has been warning of thin and unreliable ice on the Winnipeg River all winter. That’s because high flow through the Norman Dam has meant strong currents on the river, and poor ice formation.

Likewise, those parts of Lake of the Woods that have significant water flow are also likely to have weak ice. That includes Safety Bay, one of the first areas to open up because of the water flowing out of the lake and into the river.

My ice-fishing friends report that ice is generally thinner than usual, and very thin in some places. It’s common in March for the ice to be about a meter thick, so that three-foot augers sometimes cannot penetrate without an extension. This year, I hear that the ice is somewhere between two and three feet thick, except where it isn’t. One friend was drilling a handful of holes and was shocked to find that in one spot, the drill popped through ice that was only a few inches thick. Probably there had been a little patch of open water there that had only frozen over during the most recent cold snap. Then fresh snow made it look just like the solid ice all around.

Other pilots and I are observing large areas of slushy ice, and snowmobilers have confirmed this.

Sean Cockrem is working on his graphs, so we’ll soon be able to visually compare this winter to other recent ones. We expect this will confirm our feeling that this winter was pretty mild.

Regular reports on Ice Patrol will commence soon, as we are probably approaching this year’s Inflection Date, the day when temperatures start to average above freezing. More precisely, the date when the Mean Daily Temperatures begin to consistently exceed 0°C. That’s when the thaw starts in earnest.

Lastly, if you’d like to meet me in person, I’ll be talking at this year’s Common Ground, where storytellers share their special stories about their connection to Lake of the Woods.

This year there are eight featured speakers. The event is on Saturday, April 4th, from 9 am to 2:30 pm, at the Seven Generations Conference Centre, 240 Veterans Drive.

I believe tickets are $30 in advance or $35 at the door. Advance tickets are available at Kenora Public Libraries and the Lake of the Woods Museum. There’s a morning break and a lunch break.

I’ll be speaking just after 9:00, right after the opening remarks. I’ll be showing pictures and talking about how Ice Patrol began and evolved, and what I’ve learned from all those years observing the ice-out. There will be a few minutes for questions.

 

April 16, 2019: Aerial Photographs

Yesterday’s post with Sean’s graphs has been updated, to show a thaw index closer to last year’s actual result instead of last year’s forecast. Also the graphs have titles now. You may need to hit refresh to see the changes.

Now six pictures from around 10:00 this morning.

I’ll start with the Winnipeg River, because we were arriving from the north.This is looking west at the Big Straight, with Minaki at the right hand edge of the picture. Although the river has quite a lot of open water, the lakes are a different story.

You can click on any of these pictures to see them full-screen, and click on that larger image to zoom to the full resolution.

A little closer to town, around Dufresne Island, facing south west.Downtown Kenora is at the left, Keewatin is above the centre of the frame, with Darlington Bay extending to the right.

Here’s a nice shot of the whole Kenora harbourfront.Kenora Bay and the LOW hospital campus are at the lower left. Keewatin is at the right. If you drive over the Keewatin Bridge, you see a lot of open water, but there’s  ice out by Yacht Club Island. Coney Island is still surrounded by ice and Rat Portage Bay is pretty solid.

This next picture shows the condition of the lake as a whole: white ice as far as the eye can see.Zoom in to look at the open water in The Tangle. Left of centre, you can see the ice does look a little discoloured out between Town Island and Scotty Island now.

Lastly, a look at Pine Portage Bay, Long Point and Longbow Lake.Sorry, but there’s no sign of any melting in this area.

I talked to someone that went ice fishing in the Storm Bay last weekend. They said there was still three feet of solid ice, with only an inch or two of softer refrozen slush on top.

This is why I’ve been pointing my camera at the river and harbourfront; there’s not much going on anywhere else. When I get a chance, I’ll try to swing by Sioux Narrows and the Barrier Islands because satellite imagery suggests there’s some water showing there, but that’s a fairly significant detour, so I’m saving that for when there’s more to see.

Satellite images were good today, especially the ones from Terra. Links updated.

April 13, 2019: Satellite Saturday

On Friday we came home during a spell of poor weather, and although we caught glimpses of the lake between the clouds and flurries, trying to take photographs would have been pointless.

But today the weather cleared right up in time for the Aqua and Terra satellites to get fairly good pictures.

The left half of the picture is blurred, (different satellite pass, I’m guessing) but still good enough to see the large features. I’ve circled three of interest:

The large red ellipse at the top includes not only the southern portions of the Winnipeg River, but also, at the bottom of the ring, a recently enlarged area of water around Channel Island or perhaps The Tangle.

The middle ring is Big Narrows, and it looks like there may have been some expansion of the open water there.

The ring at the bottom shows water pushing into Lake of the Woods from the mouth of the Rainy River. That’s new. It first showed up a few days ago.

Here’s a photograph from a week ago, for comparison.

There’s more good news. We might finally have reached the point where we spend more time above freezing than below. The next few days look promising, with forecast highs of 5º to 8ºC and overnight lows of 0º to -3ºC.

For almost a month now, weather forecasts have been saying warmer weather is just a week away. It still says that, and to be clear, they’re not talking about above normal temperatures. But it looks as if we might see a gradual improvement towards seasonal norms. That would be daytime highs of 10ºC, and overnight lows of about -1ºC. Let’s hope it doesn’t slip away this time.

April 9, 2019: Cold

The weather here in Kenora was good enough to go flying yesterday, but weather in the places we wanted to go was bad, with fog and freezing drizzle. Even if we had taken off, the cloud was too low for taking photographs.

Today we woke up to cold weather and little snow flurries. As I write this, in the late afternoon, the temperature has not risen above -4ºC. Worse, although we will see thawing daytime temperatures in the coming days, overnight lows are expected to remain cold for the rest of the week.

I heard from my friend Sean, who graphs the mean daily temperatures with an eye to making informed predictions, and he’s not sure we’ve reached the inflection point yet. That’s the date when our mean daily temperature rises above freezing on a lasting basis. It was looking like we might have managed this a few days ago, but if we have a run of cold days, the lasting part won’t hold up and we’ll have to wait a little longer.

Now, on to some fresh pictures. These are not in the order I took them, but we can start with the Norman to Keewatin waterfront.This is looking south over the lake, with Keewatin’s iconic bridge at the right in the middle distance. Remember, you can click on any of these images to see them full-screen, and click on that larger picture to see them at maximum resolution. What you might want to zoom in on here is the water beyond the bridge, where the weekend rain has weakened the ice between Safety Bay and Keewatin Channel.

The water in the foreground is Palmerston Channel, I believe. Darlington bay is almost hidden because the clouds kept us rather low today, obliging us to take pictures at a low angle.

Let’s look at the Winnipeg River next.This picture is centred on Laurenson’s Island, and looks roughly west with Locke Bay stretching away off to the left. There’s lots of open water in the main channel, but last nights sprinkling of snow has covered the ice in the quieter bays, making it hard to assess the quality of ice there.

Further north, this is what things look like at the Little Dalles.This picture looks north. Way off on the horizon, you can see Big Sand lake.

To finish, a couple of shots from further south on the lake. First, the Barrier Islands.A snow flurry blurred this picture, but this is the state of the open water around The Elbow. We’re facing west. Allie Island is on the left of centre*, Mather Island to the right. Bald Island is at the bottom left, and part of Queer Island is at the lower right corner. Most of the dark patches here are just cloud shadows, but the two bluer ones are water.

*I’ve set my spell-checker to Canadian English.

This last picture is of Whitefish Narrows.Yellow Girl Bay dominates the foreground, Long Bay spans the middle, and beyond that you can see a little water at Whitefish Narrows slightly to the right of centre. Again, a layer of fresh snow makes it hard to judge the ice.

As for the fourteen day forecast, it looks as if we have at least another few days of disappointing temperatures. A normal high this time of year is about 9ºC (and rising steadily), but I see nothing warmer than 7ºC coming our way in the next two weeks.  Overnight lows could run at or slightly above normal, but the daytime highs don’t look encouraging.

I’m not scheduled to fly tomorrow, so I might take a look at my archived pictures from previous years to see how this spring compares to better and worse thaws.

 

 

 

April 3, 2019: Better Light

I got home slightly earlier today. With the sun low in the western sky, I still couldn’t get good pictures of the Winnipeg River, but I can summarize what I saw: near Minaki, there are patches of open water, while the Big Straight is still frozen where it is wide with a more sluggish current. From the Dalles through to the headwaters on Lake of the Woods, there’s a lot of open water where the current is strong in the main channel. Quieter bays are still frozen.

And now, on to what I could get clear pictures of.

Looking south west over Kenora with the headwaters of the Winnipeg River in the foreground. Downtown Kenora and Kenora Bay are at the left of the picture, and Safety Bay is near the center of the frame. The bad news: recent snow flurries have restored a beautiful white layer of reflective snow on the ice. The better news: open water on Keewatin Channel is expanding towards Safety Bay.

Here’s a slightly closer look at the Keewatin Channel and Devil’s Gap areas.

In this picture, Kenora’s downtown Whitecap Pavilion is at the bottom of the photo, peeking above the dashboard. The east end of Coney Island is in the middle of the picture, and Keewatin Channel is visible in the distance at the upper right. Zoom in there to see the area where the current is expanding the channel waters towards those at the Keewatin Bridge. There’s little progress at Devil’s Gap.

Remember, you can click on these pictures to see them full-screen, and if you then click on that larger picture, it should zoom to a much higher resolution.

Yesterday, I  couldn’t see Pine Portage Bay or Longbow Lake because a big snow flurry obscured them. Here’s a picture of how they look following that snowfall.

I’m afraid it looks more like January than April. This fresh snow cover is not working in our favour, which brings me to the topic of the forecast.

For some weeks now, the forecast has been along the lines of: “we just have a few more cold days, and then things are going to warm up.” And then the warming trend seems to get postponed for a few more days. My mother used to say, “Jam tomorrow, and jam yesterday, but never jam today.” This was a (Welsh?) folk saying that means that although you’ve had it before, and will one day have it again, the hope of having a luxury now are likely to be disappointed. I am reminded of this because the abnormally warm weather I eagerly anticipated for this spring seems to keep receding.

Don’t be too discouraged. One thing that makes the fourteen day forecast at the Weather Network look as if it’s being revised downward is that normal temperatures go up in the spring. So although we don’t see temperatures rocketing above normal, it is getting slowly warmer. Spring is coming, even if it’s not arriving with a bang. A few days ago, they were showing a seasonal average range as a daytime high of 4ºC, with an overnight low of -6ºC. In other words, it’s pretty typical to have daily mean temperatures of just about freezing at the end of March. Now that we’re into April, they show a normal high as being 6ºC and the low at -4ºC, representing a subtle shift to more of the day being above freezing.

However, a sudden switch to unusually warm weather has not happened, and I don’t see it coming in the latest round of fourteen and sixteen day forecasts.

What we might get is rain tomorrow and a warm weekend. That would help.

 

 

 

March 29, 2019: Morning Photos

I came home early today because of heavy snow up north. That allowed me to take a few pictures at 10:30 this morning.

This is the area just north of the Kenora Bypass, looking south west over Norman and Keewatin.

In the middle distance, you can trace the Kenora Bypass as it crosses Dufresne Island. Close to the nose of the plane is Sweeney Channel, and on the far side of Dufresne is Palmerston Channel. Lots of open water here, and I wish my flight path had taken me closer to Minaki for a better look at more of the Winnipeg River.

On towards town.

I took this picture to show how things are going on Safety Bay, but the photograph is centred on Tunnel Island. If you’re a regular on the hiking trails there, as I am, you’ll be able to spot the railway bridge, the pond on the Sandy Nook trail, the Norman Dam, and other landmarks. If you like to hike a little, I recommend these trails, but they are in rough condition right now, due to deep snow and ice. Maybe hold off until the ticks are out. Ahem. Anyway, There’s not much change along the harbourfront.

This last shot is really just a closer look at the same thing, but it shows Devil’s Gap and Keewatin Channel a bit better, if you zoom in.

We’ve come to the end of March, and so far there’s been no sign of the warm spring that was in the long-term seasonal outlook. Temperatures this month stayed mostly at or below normal, with only one or two nicer days. A normal high this time of year is around 4ºC, and a typical overnight low would be about -6ºC. The two-week forecast doesn’t show us getting that warm for another week.

That means we won’t reach the inflection point, when we start spending more time above freezing than below, (more precisely, when the daily mean temperature is above freezing) until the weekend of April 6th and 7th. That’s about two weeks later than I expected. After that, we might see some slightly warmer than normal temperatures. Nothing in the double digits, though.

In the meantime, it’s snowing as I write this. The bad weather I encountered up north this morning has reached Kenora. While the forecast called for light snow tapering off to flurries this afternoon, I see that the aviation weather is reporting the visibility as 3/4 of a mile, which is officially considered moderate snow, not light. In more casual terms, I’d say it’s coming down pretty hard.

Sad to say, that’s going to restore a lot of our ice cover to a nice bright, reflective white layer. Not helping.

Tomorrow is Satellite Saturday on Lake of the Woods Ice Patrol. I doubt we’ll have a satellite shot from today—it’s too cloudy—but we can look back over the week and see what changed.  I’ll also use the archives to compare this spring to some recent years, to show how things seem to be shaping up.