I’ve only ventured to northern Minnesota in the summertime, and having no other reason to think about this, I was clueless that Lake Superior rarely ever freezes over entirely in the winter. It’s a big lake, as big as the state of Maine and holds 10% of the world’s fresh unfrozen water.
This provides some ingredients for a very interesting recipe. Mobile water, wind, and freezing temperatures are something we don’t see in the southern part of our state. The lakes down here are frozen solid, so if a winter storm moves in the only thing blowing around in the air is snow or perhaps occasionally, sleet or rain.
Up near Superior it is different. When a storm comes in, the unfrozen lake starts getting rougher and the waves develop white caps. The lake is 350 miles across, its deepest point is 1,332 feet, and it holds 3 quadrillion gallons of water. Storm waves can reach heights of up to 30 feet. No longer protected by the warmth of the deep lake (it stays an average of 40 degrees Fahrenheit, or 4 degrees Celsius), the waves become temporarily airborne and then brought down by the force of gravity where they promptly change into a frozen state of ice. This water starts freezing the shoreline and anything else that is situated along the point where water meets land.
A few years back, I drove my daughter up to Duluth for a day during her Spring Break. Let’s say she was a little ho-hum about this trip. Many of her friends were in sunny destinations like Florida and Arizona. Going anywhere in Minnesota did not count as a Spring Break getaway in her book. As it was, someone reminded us that a storm had just been through the area and that we should head down to the port to check out the ice formations.
Here are some images of what we saw.