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Ice-Out declared on Lake Winnipesaukee

Union Leader Correspondent

April 17. 2017 8:11PM
A lone angler picked a scenic spot to try his luck in Weirs Beach last week. Ice-out was declared on Lake Winnipesaukee at 8:31 a.m. on Monday by veteran lake observer Dave Emerson of Emerson Aviation. (Bea Lewis/Union Leader Correspondent)

GILFORD — Winter’s official grip on New Hampshire ended early Monday morning when Ice-Out was declared on Lake Winnipesaukee.

Dave Emerson of Emerson Aviation, who has been calling the harbinger of spring since 1979, said the ice went out at 8:31 a.m.

The state’s largest lake is determined to be ice-free when the sightseeing vessel Mount Washington can successfully navigate each of its ports of call at Weirs Beach, Wolfeboro, Meredith, Alton Bay and Center Harbor.

This winter’s weather was unusual, according to Emerson, in that it took longer than usual for the lake to freeze. When warm temperatures arrived in February the widest expanse of the lake, and also its deepest, reopened. In March, when temperatures plunged again, it refroze.

“I’ve never seen that before. Usually if it opens up it stays open,” said Emerson.

The lake also didn’t develop the thickness of ice cover that typically forms. Most winters ice depths range from 36 to 45 inches, Emerson said. This year, he said received reports from areas on the lake where good ice formed, but it was just 18 to 24 inches thick.

Emerson is in the ideal position to be able to monitor ice conditions as he takes to the skies regularly with students enrolled in his flight school. When he begins to observe telltale signs that the conditions are right for Ice-Out to occur, he will take six to 10 flights of his own to make a close-up inspection.

The ice on Lily Pond that abuts the Laconia Airport went out last Wednesday, and historically Winnipesaukee follows suit in seven to 10 days. This year it was less than a week, the first time Emerson can recall that it followed so quickly.

Sunday’s unseasonably warm temperatures, coupled with the wind that caused the warming water to lap up and over the ice and created wave action breaking it up further, were contributing factors leading to the Ice-Out.

“The last 24 hours it was really fast,” Emerson said of Mother Nature’s unique show when the ice changes from a solid back into a liquid form.

The good news is snow melt and some rain have combined to create a full lake, which will bode well for the summer boating season.

Since records began in 1851, Ice-Out has occurred as early as March 18 and as late as May 12, although 90 percent of the time it is declared during April. In 2016, the earliest Ice-Out ever was recorded on March 18.

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