Ice can’t stop beach bums

MARQUETTE – A forecast of 80 degrees and sunny is pretty typical on a beautiful spring day.

But 80 degrees and icy?

That’s exactly what area residents got this Memorial Day weekend as the warmest temperatures of the year sent people to the Lake Superior shoreline, where small icebergs were abundant in the water, the final vestige of a bitterly cold winter.

The chilly phenomenon was featured on “NBC Nightly News” Monday night and also received a nod from national weatherman Al Roker on “Today” Tuesday morning.

Pictures and articles have also popped up on weather websites such as www.weather.com, in which bikini-clad beach-goers are laying out under the summer sun, water lapping over chunks of ice just a few feet away.

Pat Black, executive director of the Marquette County Convention and Visitors Bureau, said anytime Marquette hits the national news, it’s a good thing.

“It’s become kind of a tourist thing,” Black said. “People are talking about it. Any kind of promotion, whatever it is, whenever we get mentioned, is just a way good thing for us.”

Black posted a photo this weekend on the bureau’s Facebook page of an ore boat making its way through the icy waters of Lake Superior, the view from Presque Isle Saturday evening.

“It’s cool,” Black said. “It’s something you won’t see again anytime soon.”

That’s a prediction confirmed by National Weather Service meteorologist Steven Fleegal, who said ice this late on the lake only happens once every 15 to 20 years.

“It definitely happens, but it’s fairly rare,” said Fleegal, who works at the Negaunee Township NWS station.

He said ice in late May or early June also occurred in the area in 1996 and 1979.

As the week goes on, Fleegal said areas close to the Great Lakes will see warmer temperatures in the morning – in the 60s or 70s – before cooling down as an afternoon breeze blows across the icy water.

He said the record-setting ice cover on the Great Lakes and a bitter winter have kept the ice hanging around.

“Largely, it was led on by the really cold winter that we had here,” Fleegal said. “The big thing compared to some of the previous years – we’ve had significant ice cover on Lake Superior and that persistent cold that continued through April and also into the first part of May.”

Jackie Stark can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.