Homes along the shores of Lake Erie in Hamburg, New York were encased in ice creating stunning images.
“It was really unique I mean it was horrific and beautiful at the same time,” said Hank Kleinfelder, a Hoover Beach resident.
He recalls the waves reaching a height of about six feet days earlier. With temperatures well below freezing and sustained winds of up to 60 to 80 km/h, it created the perfect mix for the thick ice build-up.
Source: Hank Kleinfelder, submitted
The icy spectacle attracted dozens to the shores of Hoover Beach, raising concerns from residents and emergency personnel.
“It was pretty dangerous because wet ice is really slippery and so it was a challenge just keeping people off the property so that no one got hurt,” said Kleinfelder.
Source: Hank Kleinfelder, submitted
“The residential roadway here is very small and narrow. It’s not made for the volume of traffic that was seen. If we had any emergencies, if anyone ended up getting hurt secondary to the ice, we would have had trouble getting emergency apparatus back here,” said Sean Crotty, Town of Hamburg emergency manager.
In addition to slippery surfaces and shifting ice, emergency personnel were observing ice build-up on homes.
“One U.S. gallon of water equals eight pounds, so that’s a substantial weight that was on these residences and they’re not designed to hold that kind of weight,” said Crotty.
There was also increased risk as the ice was building up on air exchangers and homes’ ventilation systems.
“That situation presents that carbon monoxide would have backup into homes –and as you are well aware carbon monoxide is a silent deadly killer. You wouldn’t even know that it was entering your home until it was too late,” said Crotty.
Despite these concerns, no homes were evacuated. Crews inspected the exteriors of homes and ensured homeowners cleared any ice-covered vents.
“We got probably five to eight inches of ice on the back of the house and so we were blind on the backside and on the wind side. I had to use a sledgehammer to knock the ice away so that we could even see out even a little peephole out the back of the house,” said Kleinfelder.
CONCERNS GROW AS EXTREME WEATHER EVENTS HAPPEN MORE FREQUENTLY
“The lake levels have been much higher than expected and again the storms historically just haven’t happened this frequently and they haven’t had this kind of intensity,” said Kleinfelder.
He has lived here for two years and in that time he has experienced several serious weather events, including in February of 2019.
Ice build-up along Lake Erie, February 2019. Source: Sean Crotty, submitted
“In the period of an hour, we had forty-foot tall ice mounds that were built up, just missing structures. It, fortunately, didn’t impact anything but it certainly had the ability to,” said Kleinfelder, who also recalled the night of Halloween. “We had a seiche which raised the lake level at the eastern end of the lake by about seven feet and on top of that we had over 16-foot waves.”
“With the lake level being higher than it has been in years past every storm seems to be magnified and getting hit harder and harder up here,” said Crotty.
Ice build-up, February 2019. Source: Sean Crotty, submitted
Residents are worried that these events have become part of the norm.
“We don’t know what the impact of climate change is having and we know now that we’ve experienced high lake levels and it looks like it’s going to be that way for the future,” said Kleinfelder.
They hope to build a breakwater wall near the water’s edge to mitigate the impact of Lake Erie’s waves.
High waves observed on Halloween of 2019. Source: Sean Crotty, submitted
“We don’t have any control over the lake levels but we do have control over how we can protect our shorelines. So we as a community decided that we would assume that this is going to be our future and we better be prepared to deal with it or we can’t survive as a community,” said Kleinfelder.