Forget what the calendar says: For plenty New Hampshire residents, a surer sign of the start of spring is the annual “ice out” declaration on Lake Winnipesaukee. That's the day when the M/S Mount Washington can safely travel to all four of her ports without getting snared in ice along the way.
“It kicks off a lot of things, not only the tourism season but the boating season,” said M/S Mount Washington Captain Jim Morash. “A lot of people have been wanting to get out to their cottages or just get out on the lake and start boating and it gives them the feeling that summer is not too far behind.”
Last year’s unusually warm winter led the ice on Lake Winnipesaukee to melt earlier than ever before, in mid-March. Even with this year’s erratic winter weather, this year’s “ice out” was declared right on schedule with its usual mid-April arrival: At 8:31 a.m. Monday, to be precise.
David Emerson, whose aviation company has been on “ice out” watch for decades, initially expected the warm weather back in February would spell another record year — but a burst of snow and ice in March refroze the lake and, in turn, reset the clock.
“The lake actually refroze what had opened up in February, which is kind of the first time we’ve seen that happen,” Emerson said. “Usually when it opens up, it stays open.”
The latest recorded “ice out” in Lake Winnipesaukee happened back in 1888 —when things didn’t thaw out until May.