The recent extreme weather events sweeping across the United States have been a spectacle, if nothing else: from the sight of Chicago plunged into a sub-arctic freeze by the polar vortex to the once-in-a-lifetime snowfall that hit Southern California last week, the wintry conditions sweeping across the country have been totally extraordinary.
And now we have “ice tsunamis” popping up across the northeast.
Such was the case over the weekend on the shores of Lake Erie at the border that separates Ontario from Buffalo, New York. As captured in the video below, ice being swept through the Niagara River was literally lifting the lake onshore in a massive 40-foot wall of ice known as an “ice shove.”
@NiagParksPolice advising that @NiagaraParks Roads Department closing Niagara River Parkway near Mathers Arch. Strong winds blowing ice over the retaining wall from the lake. Drive with caution. Video courtesy @NiagRegPolice Insp. Garvey…. pic.twitter.com/RdXh5HYxfx
— Niagara Parks Police (@NiagParksPolice) February 24, 2019
The ice shove pushed inland about 150 feet and began “to bulldoze trees and street lamps,” according to storm chaser David Piano, who told CNN that the event was “one of the craziest things I’ve ever witnessed.”
As the tsunami of broken-up ice encroached on the town of Hamburg, New York, authorities issued a voluntary evacuation order for residents at Hoover Beach. According to local NBC station WGRZ, the ice shove reached a height of about 30 feet in the area.
The Town of Hamburg Emergency Services says there is a voluntary evacuation of Hoover Beach due to ice shifting. Residents in Hoover Beach can expect the Woodlawn Fire Department to come door to door accounting for residents. pic.twitter.com/d58HJFGcEQ
— WGRZ (@WGRZ) February 24, 2019
Longtime local Jack Schultz told Buffalo News:
“This is the first time in my entire life I’ve seen it come this high and this close to the house … It came up in sheets. It just layered it up to the wall. Then, when the (ice) boom broke, it took all the pressure out of here.”
National Geographic magazine describes ice shoves as a phenomenon that signals early spring as ice begins to loosen and break up, becoming susceptible to strong winds that push the ice onto beaches with gentle slopes. The more shallow the incline, the further inland the ice can be pushed.
In 1822, a naturalist in the U.S. wrote about an ice shove in graphic terms, describing how he saw “rocks, on level ground, taking up a gradual line of march [along a lakebed] and overcoming every obstacle in … escaping the dominion of Neptune.”