Destructive wall of ice crushes cabins, damages properties

'The momentum of it was just ferocious,' resident says

Residents of a small community on the shores of Lake Manitoba have been left to pick up the pieces after an ice wall crushed some cabins and other structures in the area.

Strong winds on Thursday pushed the swell of ice right to some people's doors, damaging lakefront properties on Twin Lakes Beach, in the Rural Municipality of St. Laurent.

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Mavine Smit's deck was upended by the wall, which crept through her yard and stopped right at her doorstep.

Smit said she's glad she wasn't home went it happened.

"We took a look at our security cameras and we could see that this all happened within three minutes, and once it started, the momentum of it was just ferocious," she said. "Think of a tsunami. Just like a wave of ice that was just coming really fast."

Smit said she was surprised something like this happened so early in the year.

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"You could see the ice is still really, really thick to have it be able to move that quickly," she said.

CBC: mavine-smit  (Gavin Axelrod/CBC)

Mavine Smit's deck was upended by the wall, which crept through right to her doorstep. (Gavin Axelrod/CBC)

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"The winds blew all night and they blew all day yesterday … You just don't know if the ice is done for this first push."

Roger Gillis, emergency coordinator for the RM of St. Laurent, said the municipality tries to provide the best protections it can and keep roads accessible so people can get to their properties. But in cases like this, "each individual is on their own."

"The ice is very destructive. It has an immense amount of power and we have no control over it at all," Gillis said.

"When the wind is blowing and it pushes it up, all we can do is sit and watch and make sure that we don't have to evacuate anyone or we don't have to [remove anyone] from peril."

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Gillis said he's seen this kind of damage in other areas around the lake, but most people just "rebuild and move on."

He said while most properties there are summer homes, several people also live there permanently.

"Some provincial assistance with bigger things like the fires that we just had and fires we anticipate this summer ... would be a really nice helping hand right now," he said.

'Not much you can do'

Briant Fransoo's house was also in nature's path. The ice wall cascaded into the walls of his boathouse.

The man said that in the 62 years he's lived there, he's never seen something like this happen on that side of the lake.

"I can't believe how much ice actually does, what kind of damage ice does," he said, adding that he's glad no one was hurt.

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"[I'll] just wait for it to melt and then we'll see how much damage there is."

CBC: Strong winds Thursday pushed an ice wall right to some people's doors  (Gavin Axelrod/CBC)

Strong winds Thursday pushed an ice wall right to some people's doors, damaging the property of people living in the Rural Municipality of St. Laurent. (Gavin Axelrod/CBC)

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Rick Clegg, who lives about half a mile from the area, was on the beach Saturday to check out the damage. Clegg has owned his property for a couple of years and hopes he won't experience something similar.

"Mother Nature. There's not much you can do," said Clegg. "Once it starts moving with the wind, you can't stop it."

Smit said her family has owned their property since the 1950s, and she and her husband moved there about four years ago. She said they'll eventually rebuild the deck and are relieved it wasn't worse.

"Mother Nature is not to be taken for granted. She has a mind of her own, and we are at her mercy."

This article was originally published for CBC News.

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