Rare 'Ice tsunami' crashes into Minnesota townhomes

LAKE MILLE LACS, Minn. - When you think of snow and ice, you think of it coming down. 

You don't think of it moving across - as in moving across the lake, across your backyard and through your home.

But for dozens of families in Minnesota, that is exactly what happened.

Darla Johnson shot video as a menacing, slow-moving wall of ice approached a row of townhouses on Lake Mille Lacs.

PHOTOS: 'Ice tsunami' http://bit.ly/13uYl7w

You can hear the ice crackling.  As it gets closer it sounds more like the chugging of a train rolling in.

High winds helped push massive ice floes off the lake and into the homes of worried neighbors. 

It's been dubbed an "ice tsunami", but that's not quite the right word for it.

"It's not a ice tsunami," SAID Rebecca Legatt, with the National Weather Service. "It's actually an ice shove, a surge of ice that's moved on shore whether it be from a lake body or an ocean body onto a coastal shoreline, and it's typically caused by wind conditions as it was in this case."

The ice is semi-melted, and with a consistent strong wind, it starts pushing from the center out. As it builds, it creates it's own "sail."

The wind picks it up and the momentum carries ashore.

Minnesota was not the only area impacted.

Further north in Manitoba, Canada, the same weather system destroyed or damaged more than two dozen homes and cabins. 

Donna billows has lived in Manitoba for 23 years.

"Bang, the ice came right through the living room here," Billows said. "He said ‘Grab your purse, grab whatever your can, grab your keys, we gotta get out of here.'"

And at his cabin on Ochre Beach, Myles Haverluck was getting ready to light his barbecue when he saw a sight he's never seen before.

"I've never been in a tornado, but I'm going to assume it sounds something like that," Haverluck said. "Just a roar - and you can see it coming and you assume it's not going to come any further, but it just kept on coming."

The freaky weather phenomenon is common in places like Alaska, but not in Minnesota.

No one hurt was hurt.  Physically that is. But it sure is going to hurt financially for those homeowners.  The bad news - many insurance policies don't cover the damage. 

It's also hurting the local economies. Saturday was the start of the walleye fishing season in Minnesota, a busy time for the resorts there. 

But instead of pulling up fish, they're pulling up chunks of ice.


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