How ice around P.E.I. can be a good thing — at least during a storm surge

The ice that has formed around most of P.E.I. could come in handy in the event of a storm surge predicted later this week.

'A few hours either way could make a significant difference,' meteorologist says

Ice can help prevent waves from damaging the shoreline during a storm surge, says meteorologist Linda Libby. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

Most of P.E.I. is currently surrounded by ice — and that could come in handy later this week, a weather expert says.

With a storm surge warning for P.E.I. part of a special weather statement for Thursday and Friday, the ice may provide a buffer from waves and higher water levels.

"That can be a benefit if we have a fast-moving storm where a lot of, particularly waves, and some of the high water level can be prevented from reaching our coastline and doing erosional damage," said Linda Libby, a meteorologist with Environment and Climate Change Canada based in Charlottetown.

If strong winds continue for an extended period in one direction, however, it can cause "rafting" or buildup of ice along the shore, which can damage the shoreline and any infrastructure along it. 

Ice can raft or build up and damage the shoreline in strong, prolonged winds from one direction. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

Although the winds in this storm are predicted to be strong, Libby said wind directions are expected to change — first coming from the northeast, then possibly from the  southwest and southeast in some parts of the Island.

Not expected to be as bad as 2010

Right now the highest storm surge is not expected to happen at high tide for P.E.I., Libby said, though that will depend on where the storm tracks.

"But it's one of those situations where a few hours either way could make a significant difference," she said. 

Libby does not expect the storm to be as bad as the last similar event, a storm surge in December 2010 with prolonged northeasterly winds that caused damage along the Island's North Shore and flooding along the Northumberland Strait. 

The highest surge of the coming storm is not expected to happen at high tide, though that will depend on where the storm tracks. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

With files from Nancy Russell