High winds force crystal-like ice pileup outside Lake Winnipeg cottage

By | May 2, 2020

Strong winds in Manitoba forced ice to pile up in front of a family cottage along Lake Winnipeg on Saturday morning.

Curtis Johnson and his family did not expect to witness the phenomenon while checking up on their waterfront property in Arnes, Man., a small community about 103 kilometres north of Winnipeg, in the rural municipality of Gimli.

Johnson said his wife and daughters were watching ducks swimming on the water around 11 a.m., when one of the women noticed some ice “piling up” on a big boulder. 

“The ice was actually quite rapidly coming up and pushing up on the shore,” he said. “It was moving boulders along the water and moving sand up.”

With it came several metres of ice, he said. 

Hours later, Manitoba’s hydrologic forecast centre issued a bulletin warning about high north winds and the risk of ice piling up on the southern shores of Lake Winnipeg, including near Gimli and Victoria Beach, Lake Manitoba and Lake Winnipegosis.

Curtis Johnson’s two daughters, Anya and Kelsey, stand on top of an ice pile up outside the family’s cottage on Saturday in Arnes, Man. (Submitted by Gail-Ann Breese)

“It was all crystals … or shards of ice,” Johnson said.

The sandy beach is located about 100 metres away from his cottage. Within 10 to 20 minutes, he said the ice climbed up his property, quickly inching toward the cottage’s deck.

“It was just pushing, all the ice was moving south and onto the beach” he said.

“It was a spectacular sight,” Johnson said.

One spur that crept up had the whole family on their toes moving materials, a trampoline and deck chairs out of its path. Johnson said they did not panic, but rather embraced it.

“We knew that it would eventually stop, so we weren’t particularly concerned, but more fascinated by this magical moment,” he said, adding that one giant spur reached about 6 metres at its height.

“I have to reinforce just how fortunate we are,” he said.

A boulder sits in the middle of the Curtis Johnson’s yard after being pushed up nearly 90 years ago. (Submitted by Gail-Ann Breese)

Between the current COVID-19 pandemic that has turned the world upside down, and an historic massive boulder that still sits in his yard after being pushed way past the cottage in the 1930s, he said the family feels quite fortunate.

“It sincerely could’ve been worse,” he said.

“Sometimes it can be devastating, sometimes it can be a delight … and we were just fortunate to have ten minutes of delight.”

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