PIPE, Wis. (WLUK) - If you're a fisherman looking for some solid ice on the western shores of Wisconsin's Lake Winnebago, you're going to need to find another way out onto the lake between Oshkosh and Neenah on the western shore.
"Nobody's going to be able to get out on this side of the lake, until this freezes," said Don Herman of Oshkosh.
Herman, best known for being the person people call when their car or ice shanty goes through the ice in Northeast Wisconsin, was ready to set up bridges on the lake for ice fishing.
"No, we didn't expect it," said Herman of Saturday's winds. "We didn't know they were going to be that windy."
That was until those high winds and warm daytime temperatures Saturday caused roughly 150 feet of ice to open up. Herman says it could now take weeks for the ice to get back to a relatively safe thickness.
"There's some places that are out, 200, 300 yards. It's going to be dangerous, so unless you know that, where this area is, I'd recommend people stay off," said Herman.
From open water to solid ice
Meanwhile, on the east side of the lake, in the town of Pipe, those same overnight winds caused tons of ice to pile up on a short stretch of shoreline in what Mary Southard said took just seconds.
"I am so thankful nobody had gone out there, because you wouldn't stand a chance," said Southard, whose house sits on the shores of Lake Winnebago.
Southard says the commotion started at about 8:30 Saturday night.
"The windows on our four-season porch were going in and out," explained Southard of the strong winds. "By the time I turned on the light and looked out, the ice had just piled up immediately. The boat lifts were gone, the jet ski lift, the pier."
Removed from the lake for the season and sitting on dry land, the Southard's pier, neighbor's boat house and boat were no match for the crushing mass of ice.
The boat house now sits nearly vertical. Southard's pier mangled and in two pieces – sixteen feet of which is still buried under the ice.
"It had shoved it right against the door," Southard said of the pier.
Measuring nearly one foot thick, the ice pinned the dock system to the house, threatening the foundation. That was until it could be cut and moved in the high winds.
Unusual time of year for ice shoves
Southard estimates the ice damage to her property, alone, is at least $10,000.
"In the spring, I worry about (ice shoves) a little bit, but there was nothing stopping this."
The fact that such heavy ice could be moved – on both sides of the lake in the dead of winter is something that shocks Herman.
"I didn't think it would push around 10 inches of ice," Herman remarked as many large ice shoves happen during the spring thaw. "It's very unheard of, it doesn't happen very often."
Herman says having such a large shove at this time of year isn't a comforting feeling with Wisconsin's annual sturgeon spearing season just weeks away.
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