Spring comes to Winnipesaukee, just a few days behind scheduleBy JOHN KOZIOL
Union Leader Correspondent April 26. 2018 9:20PM
GILFORD - Although slightly on the late side this year, Ice Out on Lake Winnipesaukee arrived at 5:40 p.m. Thursday, said Dave Emerson, who from his airplane has called the event since 1979.
Ice Out, Emerson said, is declared when the M/S Mount Washington cruise ship can safely navigate between its ports of call: Weirs Beach, Alton Bay, Center Harbor, Meredith and Wolfeboro.
Not only do all those harbors have to be clear of ice, so does the Mount’s route, said Emerson. Though it was close, that route still had floating ice in it when viewed from the air a little past noon on Thursday.
But Emerson planned to go up several more times Thursday to see if the wind and sunshine had moved things around; on his third flight of the day he was able to make the official Ice Out declaration.
The first record of Ice Out was May 12, 1888, which is also the latest ever, said Emerson. That 130-year-old record is somewhat ambiguous, since the definition of Ice Out at that time isn’t clear.
In the 1950s, Ice Out was used as a fundraiser by the Laconia Rotary Club. The late Bob Aldrich, a Rotarian, a real estate agent and pilot, would go up in his own airplane to declare Ice Out. Aldrich later mentored Emerson after he became unable to carry on the duty.
More recently, Ice Out has become a regional, national and international happening. Many people are intrigued by the changing of the seasons on Lake Winnipesaukee and many others participate in some of the dozens of contests, some for money, to predict the date of Ice Out, said Emerson.
For both those reasons, Emerson said he was glad that he was able to make the specific call himself, rather than estimating when it might have occurred overnight.
He said the earliest Ice Out was on March 19 — in 2016. It typically occurs in the third week of April, and only after Lily Pond, a small body of water near the Laconia Airport in Gilford, is clear of ice.
This year, the ice went out on Lily Pond on April 16.
Emerson is president of Emerson Aviation at the airport, the oldest fixed-based operator in New Hampshire. It was founded by his late parents.
Emerson said Ice Out is a signal to island residents that they can start returning to their seasonal homes and to contractors that their busy season is imminent.
Having viewed the lake closely from the air and having spoken with marine contractors, Emerson said there’s going to be a lot of ice damage to repair this year.
“The main thing is it’s like a rite of spring,” said Emerson.