Ithaca, N.Y. — Could Cayuga Lake freeze over completely?

The 21st Century Library Campaign – Tompkins County Public Library

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A picture released by the East Hill Flying Club yesterday shows the lake almost frozen over at the surface, except for a pocket of water near Sheldrake Point.

David St. George, chief instructor at the club who has been flying for 30 years, snapped another picture this morning.

“It’s still speculative, but in all the years I have flown here, it’s as frozen as I have seen it,” he said.

In order for the lake’s surface to freeze, there would have to be below-freezing temperatures and more importantly, calm with no winds, St. George said.

According to Seneca County’s website, it is very rare for these conditions to prevail over Cayuga Lake because it is situated in a trough between wide-swept hills.

The last time Cayuga’s froze over is believed to be 1979, the website said. It is remembered to have been a rough freeze-over that lasted a few days before the southeast wind cracked and broke up the ice. It has also frozen over several times before.

Courtesy of Seneca County Historian Walt Gable

The NY Department of Environmental Conservation says Cayuga Lake’s mass makes it less likely to freeze over in the majority of winters. This is in contrast with Lake Otisco, which always freezes over.

Of course, less likely isn’t the same as impossible — especially when temperatures dip far below normal, as they did throughout the coldest February on record.


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