Ice caves closed off

Ice caves in Crystal Beach taken in January of this year.

Ice caves in Crystal Beach taken in January of this year.

Emergency officials cut off access to some ice caves in Crystal Beach Monday over concern about cracks that appeared.
“We noticed cracking … on the cave structures,” said Fort Erie fire Chief Larry Coplen, adding the actual lake ice surface was still solid.
The ice caves — technically ice shoves — appeared in early January along the shoreline of Crystal Beach by Waterfront Park and Palmwood Hotel.
Ice shoves are formed when wind pushes free-floating pieces of ice onto the shore and causes it to pile up. Cold temperatures freeze the pieces into place and they can be up to four metres high and create unique formations, like the ice caves.
There are ice shoves along the Lake Erie shoreline from Fort Erie to Dunnville, though it’s not known whether there are any more ice caves.
The ice caves in Crystal Beach have attracted thousands of visitors in the past few weeks as various media outlets in Canada and the U.S. have done stories on the naturally-formed structures.
Coplen said the popularity of the ice caves caused some issues for firefighters and paramedics who had to respond to calls in Crystal Beach.
Side streets in Crystal Beach were full of cars, and it was reported that traffic was backed up between two and 12 miles at times on Monday as more people flocked to the area.
The chief moved fire equipment to Waterfront Park Monday to ensure firefighters could deal with any issues and not have to fight traffic.
Coplen said over a two-day period, one person suffered a broken hip and another a concussion when they fell to the ice, while out at the ice caves.
“We’ve had a few more people fall on the ice, but nothing serious,” he said from Waterfront Park.
Coplen said while firefighters had some caves blocked off, it would be very hard to keep people away from them all.
“How do you put a fence over a kilometre of ice? We’re asking people to use common sense on the ice.”
The chief said he’d be meeting with Niagara Regional Police on Tuesday to discuss what to do in relation to the ice caves.

Bald Eagle 2

Collection of tweets and images on ice caves