BEMIDJI—Snow and wind this week might keep Lake Bemidji from finishing its freeze.
The sheets of ice spreading mostly over the east side of the lake are so thin a dusting of snow could push the ice under water, that a gust of wind could crack the ice into pieces. An early December flirtation with freezing is the new normal, said John Fylpaa of Lake Bemidji State Park, with milder falls and springs causing a shorter season of ice coverage.
“We still haven’t had any subzero days,” said Fylpaa, a park naturalist. The kind that “cool the lake down and make ice real nice.”
They aren’t coming this week.
The National Weather Service predicts highs in the 30s and lows in the 20s, with a few inches of snow Monday night into Tuesday. Winds will gather speed and reach 10-15 mph by the weekend.
According to the park, this will be the eighth time in 10 years that Lake Bemidji has waited until December to freeze. The freeze-over date usually fell in late November until about 20 years ago. Four of the five latest freeze-overs on record (beginning in 1958) have come since 1998.
With the usual thaw date also coming earlier—about the last week of April—the lake is covered in ice less than ever.
“One of the things showing up big-picture,” Fylpaa said, “is there could be more evaporation.”
Less ice means more direct sunlight, he said, “and the lake could end up being warmer overall, and there are some coldwater species that could be affected.”
Ice fishermen are affected, too.
“There’s no safe ice,” Fylpaa said, but 4 inches usually can support a person. The uneven freezing on Lake Bemidji—much of the west side is uncovered—causes unpredictability.
“No rushing this year,” he said. People should check with the park or other locals before setting foot or tire on the ice. (Snowmobiles need about 5 inches, cars and trucks about a foot.)
Lake Irving and smaller bodies of water are frozen over or getting there.
Fylpaa said Lake Irving was nearly covered when he checked last week, finding a family of ducks in a solitary pool shrinking slowly around them.