One of the most wonderful phenomena of the USA’s recent extreme cold weather was definitely Niagara Falls getting covered with ice. A polar vortex reached the northern states of the country and subzero temperatures remained for long days. This allowed the Falls to turn into breathtaking icy formations.
1. Polar Vortex, the undesired guest
The cold weather reached life-threatening levels at the beginning of January in the northeast of the USA, and the extreme windchill didn’t help either. Temperatures dropped as low as minus 55F in Minnesota, even the south pole was warmer at that time. Besides Minnesota, Chicago, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin also declared emergencies.
2. Incredible landscape from above
Niagara Falls is an icy wonderland when temperatures plunge below freezing levels. This photograph shows the massive blocks of ice that were created by the extremely cold weather. You can see how the water flows on top of the blocks to be frozen in ever growing shapes that look like ice monsters, waking up.
3. Man-sized icicles all around
Visitors take photos at the brink of the Niagara Falls. Thanks to the extreme cold weather icicles grew as big as an adult…and some of them got even bigger. The continous winds freeze the icicles in bending shapes, and it will be best to stay clear of the are when they thaw!
4. Winter Romantic
Niagara Falls is one of the most romantic places in the world even when it’s freezing cold. Despite extreme low temperatures, many tourists visited the Falls not to miss the breathtaking view. This elderly couple doesn’t seem to suffer from the brutal weather conditions, either. They must be warmed at heart.
5. Thick ice coats the small observatory deck
This little observatory deck is barely recognizable as ice covers it all around. Some visitors visualized the movie Frozen, as it looked like Elsa had just opened her arms and spread ice on everything. The deck is normally the entrance of the tour called the “journey behind the falls”, obviously, it was not operating that time.
6. First man climbed the Niagara
Can you spot the climber? Well, he is Will Gadd, the world-champion ice climber from Canada. He had climbed a number of extremely dangerous icebergs, fjords, and frozen falls, but Niagara for sure was one of his life experiences, with a creepy combination of water-ice, snow, slush and spray ice. As he told later in an interview, the most staggering factor was the extreme physical vibration the Falls issues. “You feel it in your intestines” – he added.
7. Being dropped back to the Ice Age
No doubt Polar Vortex created massive blocks of ice at Niagara Falls this January, however, just imagine, during the last Ice Age, about 18,000 years ago, glaciers up to two miles thick covered the Niagara region. Since then, due to the continuous erosion, the Falls moved more than 11 km to the North.
8. Water rules
According to the website of Niagara Falls State Park, more than 3,000 tonnes of water flow over the Falls every second. Due to the cold, it significantly slows down but never stops. Look how amazingly it finds its way under the ice. Using this gigantic amount of energy Niagara Falls generates power for most of Southern Ontario.
9. Playful game of icy “lace” walls and flowing water
Niagara Falls is the second largest in the world (after Victoria Falls in Africa). The difference in elevation between the lakes Erie and Ontario
10. Artists got inspired by the amazing spectacle
Niagara has always been a beloved theme of nature photographers. This winter Niagara provided a unique spectacle creating absolutely stunning pieces of art. However, if they were vigilant enough, they could make similar photos of the frozen Niagara in the year 2014 and 2017, that are noted for the falls icing up, as well.
11. Forty feet of icy coat
What makes the ice coat so dramatic and wonderful is that water can freeze as it’s flowing over the falls, creating a massive collection of ice below that can be even 40 feet thick. This is how these amazing ice formations are born and cover everything with white coat – trees, plants, stones.
12. Frozen Niagara by night
Lights create a multi-colored magical view of the frozen Niagara Falls with the fairytale observatory deck in front. Most of us can admire these lights only on photos, as even the most determined tourists decided to stay inside for the nights. The ‘Illumination of the Falls’ has been in operation since 1925.
13. Historical moments
In the early 1900s, the phenomenon of the frozen Niagara was not unusual at all. It got frozen almost every year. However, it happened only a very few times when the Falls got completely frozen over, building a “bridge” over the water. As the river never stops to flow underneath, it is very dangerous and forbidden to walk on it.
14. Steam over the Falls
Water spray surrounds Niagara Falls throughout the year, however, when it gets extremely cold, it gets steamy, as well. It happens because water is warmer than the air’s temperature. It is hard to imagine but The National Weather Service warned that wind chills can freeze skin within 15 minutes.
15. And the one we can blame or be thankful to is…
The notorious Polar Vortex. A frightful, purple and blue tarantula, writhing and wiggling around the Arctic Circle, Canada all the way down the east-north USA, captured by NASA from the 20th to the 29th of January. We need to also notice that the polar vortex was responsible for a number of deaths, and energy outages in the affected areas.