In yet another sign of winter’s persistent grip on Minnesota, no lakes in the state have reported ice-out one week into April.
The usual lake meltdown is behind schedule, signaling the state may be on pace to set some records this year for latest ice-outs. Usually, by this week and next week, southern Minnesota and metro area lakes have open water, according to the state Department of Natural Resources, which tracks median ice-outs.
But not this year.
“Mother Nature has put the brakes on spring,” said Pete Boulay, a climatologist with the DNR. “We’re making ice instead of melting it.”
Ice-out, one of the Land of 10,000 Lakes’ much-anticipated signs of spring, marks the nearing of the boating season. On Lake Minnetonka, restaurants and organizations even hold annual contests to predict the milestone.
But this year, winter hasn’t let up, with below-freezing temperatures and snow, making April the eighth snowiest on record in the state instead of ushering in the usual 50-degree temps.
“We have a shot at getting some records for late ice-out,” Boulay said.
In 2013 — when it snowed in the Twin Cities on May 1 — the state had one of the latest ice-out seasons, with lakes starting to report it on April 6. This year missed that mark on Friday.
Budd Lake, a small lake near the Iowa border, is usually one of the first lakes in Minnesota to record ice-out, reporting it last year on March 21. In 2013, ice-out on the lake was April 12 and the latest ice-out ever recorded for the lake was April 15, 2008.
Boulay said it’s difficult to predict whether this year could set a record on Budd Lake and on other Minnesota lakes. Recent sunshine is helping to melt ice but more snow in the forecast could slow the process. Other long-standing records are going to be difficult to break, he added.
“It all depends on the weather,” he said. “Every time we have another snowstorm, it kicks us back another day.”
Last year, metro lakes, such as Harriet, Calhoun and Lake of the Isles in Minneapolis, all set records for earliest ice-out dates after an unusually warm winter, followed by rain and high winds.
There’s no universal method for determining ice-out (recorded at dnr.state.mn.us/ice_out). Decades ago, for instance, residents would put a car on a lake and mark ice-out by the date when it fell through. Now, on Lake Minnetonka, Hennepin County deputies and the Freshwater Society declare ice-out when a boat can navigate through all its channels and bays without being stopped by ice floes — not when the lake is completely ice-free.
The lake marked ice-out last year on March 27, but the median date is April 14. As of Friday, the massive lake still had a thick ice cover with little open water. The record for latest ice-out: May 5, 1857. The state came close to hitting that mark in 2013, when ice out was on May 2.
“It’s hard to beat,” Steve Woods of the Freshwater Society said of the record. “But we’re going to be flirting with it.”