'Ice Shove' Damages Some Manitoba Homes Beyond Repair

Residents of Ochre Beach, Manitoba, were surprised when heavy ice floes were pushed up on their beachfront properties last week, damaging many homes to the point of no repair. The ice event is the first for the area, but the second weather event to wreak havoc after severe flooding in 2011.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

In northern lakefront vacation spots such as Ochre Beach, Manitoba and Lake Mille Lacs, Minnesota, ice happens even in May. But what happened this past weekend was like something out of a science fiction movie.

(SOUNDBITE OF WIND)

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

This is the sound from a video recorded as constant strong winds pushed huge sheets of ice off a lake and onto the shore. Fingers of ice creeped farther inland and farther. It's as if the ice is alive.

(SOUNDBITE OF ICE SHOVE)

CORNISH: Miles Haverluck(ph), 62 years old, has lived in Ochre Beach for 30 years. On Friday night, he couldn't quite believe what he was seeing.

MILES HAVERLUCK: You're not sure if it's going to keep on coming or what it's going to do. And I guess we should've just got the heck out of there, but like a bunch of idiots we kind of stand around and were watching it.

BLOCK: The ice kept surging toward lake front homes and within minutes, what was a creepy curiosity became a big problem.

HAVERLUCK: I was just standing on the deck. We were just getting ready to, you know, cook a couple steaks and we were lighting the barbeque and I never did get the barbeque lit because it ended up getting buried in ice.

CORNISH: Ice even came in through the Haverluck's door and windows.

BLOCK: Retiree Elmer Bellows(ph) was sitting down for dinner with his wife when she looked out the window and saw the wall of ice coming.

ELMER BELLOWS: She asked me to go run out in front and save the stone pelican that she had. I went out, grabbed it and looked down the beach and one of the neighbor's decks were just splitting up just like toothpicks. So I ran, dropped the pelican in the house. Our living room started to get dark with the ice piling up over top and we thought possibly that the window would have survived, but then it exploded. We decided it was time to get out.

BLOCK: In just minutes, ice smashed into and sometimes through houses. Dozens of homes were damaged or destroyed in both Ochre Beach and Lake Mille Lacs. Witnesses said the ice sounded like thunder or a train.

CORNISH: It's being called an ice tsunami, but...

REBECCA LEGGETT: It's actually an ice shove.

CORNISH: An ice shove. Rebecca Leggett is a sea ice analyst at the National Weather Service in Anchorage, Alaska.

LEGGETT: It's a surge of ice caused typically by wind conditions. There is a long persistent wind. It wasn't even wind advisory criteria. Unfortunately, it was just the ideal situation that's lined up for this ice shove to occur.

CORNISH: The ideal conditions may be rare. Still, Elmer Bellows of Manitoba says he and his wife are moving away from the lakefront.

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