High winds create massive ice walls along shores of Alberta’s Pigeon Lake

A recent bout of bad weather in the Edmonton area formed massive walls of ice along the shores of Pigeon Lake.

This incredible natural phenomenon, known as an ice shove, is created when strong winds, water currents, temperature fluctuations, or a combination of the three push ice off a body of water and into the shoreline. In this case, it seems strong winds were to blame.

On Friday, Environment Canada issued a wind warning for the Edmonton area, including Pigeon Lake, which is located about 100 kilometres southwest of the city. Wind gusts later recorded at Edmonton International Airport and the nearby community of St. Francis reached speeds of 87 and 100 kilometres per hour, which proved strong enough to move ice right off the lake.

Some of the largest ice formations occurred along the Pigeon Lake’s west side, where lifelong resident Irene Johnson snapped some photos before sending them to local news outlets.

“It’s amazing. Mother Nature can be at its best or it can be at its worst. If I had a lakefront cabin I would have been a little worried,” she said.

It was a similar scene last April at Alberta Beach, though Johnson told Global News that it’s been at least 30 years since she’s seen ice shoves this large on Pigeon Lake.

The massive drifts that built up on the west side of the lake occurred near a swimming area within Pigeon Lake Provincial Park, so there was no damage to trees, houses, or other structures in that area. But according to Don Fleming, mayor of Ma-Me-O Beach, a summer village located on the southeast shore of Pigeon Lake, residents on other sides weren’t so lucky.

Although Fleming told CTV News Edmonton that these ice shoves weren’t as destructive as some of the ones he’s seen in the past, the ice did damage a few people’s seawalls, and in some instances, it managed to creep all the way up to their homes and cottages.

Because many of the houses along the beach are seasonal, it might be months before residents find out what’s trapped under all that ice. The good news, Fleming says, is that when summer does arrive, the melted ice often leaves a nice, smooth beach behind.