Residents wait to clean up after ‘scary’ ice wall rips through Manitoba community

An image of the ice wall crashing onto the Twin Lakes Beach shoreline on April 21, 2024. Submitted by Jeff Douglas

Northwest of Winnipeg, a community is waiting to put pieces of homes and cottages back together after a natural phenomenon.

Richard Chartrand, reeve of the Rural Municipality (RM) of St. Laurent, said that over the weekend, an ice wall on Lake Manitoba was pushed toward Twin Lakes Beach by northwestern winds.

“The wind was quite strong for two days prior. It was constant,” he said. “The ice built up and it impacted on a few boathouses there, (and) a couple of cottages had damage… At least four decks that people built onto their cottages had been lifted up as well,” he said.

The ice wall climbs a property in the Twin Lakes Beach, Man., area. Submitted by Jeff Douglas

Chartrand said he caught word of the ice wall in a text from one of the RM’s councillors who lives in the area.

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“He was meeting with some of the residents,” he said, adding that the emergency co-ordinator was also at the scene to assess what was happening, and the damage.

Alice Dent, a Twin Lakes Beach resident since 1968, said while they don’t happen every year, the phenomenon is anticipated each spring with fear.

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“Once it gets going, you just can’t stop it. It just keeps coming,” she said. “You can’t do anything other than pray for the wind to die down, and go from there.”

Dent said she is grateful not to be among those impacted by the ice wall, but devastated for those who were.

“I just feel for these people. It’s scary,” she said, noting it could have been a lot worse if the lake’s water levels had been higher.

One of the residents’ top concerns is lacking insurance, Dent and Chartrand said.

A distant photo of the ice wall. Submitted by Jeff Douglas

“They’re going to have to foot the bill out of pocket. It’s not something that the municipality can assist them with in the form of a (disaster financial assistance) claim or anything like that. It’s pretty well their responsibility,” the reeve said.

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For the most part, he said incurring damage from an ice wall is something most residents are aware could happen to them.

“This is something that is not always an annual occurrence, but it is a regular occurrence,” he said.

That being said, the RM will do what it can, Chartrand said, and those who need help can give it a call at 204-646-2259.

In the meantime, there is not much that can be done but wait.

“Things will go back to normal again depending on the temperatures, of course. But it looks promising that this ice will melt quickly now, and all we can hope for is that the winds don’t pick up. But I think the lake is pretty open now, so it should be OK,” Dent said. “Famous last words.”

Chartrand said the community is expecting more wind in the coming week.

Looking ahead, he said climate change looms on the RM’s radar following a “huge marsh fire just across the road from some of these individuals.”

“We’re looking at both sides of the road. One side you have drought, the other side you have ice,” he said.

In 2011, Twin Lakes Beach was also ravaged by an infamous flood on Lake Manitoba, which also impacted several other communities and cost the province of Manitoba over $1 billion.

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