Shifting Lake Erie ice shakes homes near Colchester

Picture frames were reportedly rattling on walls and dishes clinking in kitchens near Colchester Monday, as shifting ice on Lake Erie shook the area.

Callers told ERCA the ice cracking sounded like thunder

Picture frames were reportedly rattling on walls and dishes clinking in kitchens near Colchester Monday, as shifting ice on Lake Erie shook the area.

"Ice has a phenomenal compression characteristic, but is very weak on tensile strength so if you push up on the ice surface that's bearing down on the ice surface it's going to crack, break and shift, and when it does it that it will be very dramatic," explained Tim Byrne, director of watershed management services, for the Essex Region Conservation Authority.

Byrne said ERCA received calls about loud booming sounds along the lake, with some comparing the noise to thunder.

Shift in temperature behind breakup

He pointed to the sudden shift in temperature as the reason the ice, much of which has been intact since New Year's Eve, has begun to break up.

"The energy that's going to be expended is going to be amazing," Byrne explained. "This is like when you snap a piece of wood or anything else in your hands. You hear sound and you feel that force — translate that to several hundred metres of ice surface immediately touching frozen ground conditions or soil that has frost in it. That force is immediately translated through it."

Byrne added another danger that comes with fluctuating temperatures is the risk that runoff will freeze over old ice, "masking a hidden danger" by giving the impression it's more solid than it appears.