Lake Erie is Almost Completely Frozen Over


  • Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory

It's been really freaking cold lately, and as a result 94 percent of Lake Erie is covered in ice— that's the highest percentage among all of the Great Lakes and the second highest since 1996 when we were completely frozen over.

Compared to last winter's unforgiving polar vortex, though, this season's been fairly mild; that is, until recently, when temperatures plummeted causing the lake to "flash freeze," as is evidenced by the graph below:

  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

The good news is, mid-February is the peak of lake freezing season, so we're almost out of the woods.

That's not to say we can't squeeze a little enjoyment out of our backyard tundra before we get in to booze cruising season. Really, it can be fun. Just take it from Scene staffer Sam Allard who braved the arctic elements last year with local U.S. Coast Guard ice cutters:
We’re underway, eight nautical miles or thereabouts into the solid white mass of what I’ve been assured is Lake Erie. But it might as well be 8 trillion nautical miles, and it might as well be Neptune, because from up here on the bridge of the USCG Morro Bay (WTGB 106), an icebreaking tug, the view is that of a deep-galactic wasteland.

Our speed right now is 0.0 knots, which for the uninitiated means we’re stopped, squatting in the ice like a hypothermic otter. It’s early February, and the Great Lakes are 88 percent covered in ice. Lake Erie, where we’re now stalled, is the smallest and shallowest of the lakes and has reached a staggering 96 percent coverage. “Knot,” by the way, is the maritime abbreviation for “Nautical Miles per hour.” The nautical mile is slightly longer than a standard land mile, measuring 2,000 yards compared to 1,670.

For the record, there is nothing visibly nautical about our current location.  
If you missed it, catch up on the full feature here.

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Cleveland Scene. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Cleveland Scene, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club for as little as $5 a month.