Ice leaves Madison lakes month early

High winds, temperatures, heavy rain speed up thaw
Ice leaves Madison lakes month early
Above: Lake Mendota at James Madison Park on March 3 as the Madison Fire Department conducted ice rescue training. Below: March 7, when "ice out" was declared.

Lakes Mendota and Monona are open a month earlier than normal because of high winds, high temperatures and heavy rain.

The Clean Lake Alliance said the lakes officially opened Tuesday, which is 28 days early for Mendota and 23 days early for Monona. The Wisconsin State Climatology Office made the declaration after ice held off for a 24-hour period on both lakes.

“An early ice-off date, a fast spring melt and a rainy spring means runoff could cause more issues for lake health throughout the summer,” said Clean Lakes Alliance watershed program director Paul Dearlove. “The more runoff that reaches the lakes, the higher chance we have for summer algae blooms and other lake clarity issues.”

The 2016-2017 winter freeze on Lake Mendota was 62 days long – short of the usual 104-day freeze period. March 7 ties the second earliest ice-off date, which was the winter of 1999-2000.