“Here comes the ice!” yelled Anita Fisher to her husband Danny late Wednesday afternoon, May 2nd at Joussard, Alberta.
Every spring, the melting ice pack on Lesser Slave Lake is pushed by winds. Wednesday, the wind was strong from the north. This pushed the ice pack, still about one-half metre or more thick (18 to 24 inches), towards the hamlet of Joussard on the south shore. There, cottage owners faced the onslaught of thousands of tonnes of ice bearing down on their homes or vacation cabins. The beautiful Fisher home, two years under construction, was one of them.
Suddenly, the huge barricade or armour boulders the Fishers had planted across the lake side of their home for just this situation, looked very, very small.
“It all happened so fast,” says Fisher. She figures it was all over in about ten minutes. This was echoed by other owners up and down the stretch of cabins in front of the big Joussard church. It was fast and not every loud. Mostly just crackling noises. Those noises were still happening into Wednesday evening, even though the strong winds had died down by then.
“I’m not going to be able to sleep tonight,” says Diane Ukrainetz, who with husband Ron also own a cabin fronting the lake. Their “armour rocks” were pushed three to five metres in towards their cabin.
“Actually the trees in front held a lot of the ice back,” says Ron. “Their roots are still frozen in. They did a remarkable job.”
One log cabin was pushed off its foundation. Overall, damage so far has been mostly to decks, outbuildings and docks. Insurance to the main structures is apparently not available.
Homeowners are holding their breaths there won’t be a repeat of May 10, 1978. At that time, ice pushed its way all the way across the main street of Joussard right up to the front door of the church. As there wasn’t much construction on the lakefront at that time, only one building was damaged.
A similar jam happened on May 6, 2013. In that case a strong northeast wind blew ice ashore causing damage to several property owners along the lakeshore.