In Cleveland, Ohio, there is a lighhouse that is placed so close to Lake Erie, one of the Great Lakes of the Midwest, that a wonderful weather phenomenon takes place. Each winter, in fact, the West Pierhead Lighthouse is literally fully encrusted with ice.
It started during the winter of 2010, when local Cleveland news stations began reporting on a gorgeous natural phenomenon: an ice sculpture rising from the waters of Lake Erie. But this wasn’t a work of art, but the lighthouse encased entirely in ice, looking like a frosty castle straight out of the film Frozen. Stunning and ethereal, the lighthouse quickly became a favorite site for photographers and locals who admired the incredible collision between a man-made building and one of the Great Lakes.
“Days of unrelenting gale force winds which began on December 13 churned up white caps on Lake Erie,” a local broadcasting station explained in 2010. “Those monster waves crashed across the Cleveland Harbor breakwall and West Pier lighthouse.”
The ice has built up layer by layer, completely encasing the lighthouse in ice. The West Pierhead Lighthouse, located at the west end of Cleveland’s Port Harbor, nudges up so closely against Lake Erie’s cold waters that it was repeatedly splashed by ice caps caused by gale force winds. The waves crossed the breakwall, and during that particularly freezing winter, it froze over the lighthouse in layers amid subzero air temperatures. Since 2010, the phenomenon has occurred at the West Pierhead Lighthouse annually during the colder months.
Interestingly, the ice has brought more attention to the lighthouse than it has seen in decades. Built in 1911, it has been unoccupied since 1965 when it was automated. The original Fresnel lens was donated to the Great Lakes Science Center in Cleveland, which is within sight of the lighthouse, right across the harbor, but the lighthouse is still in use. Its beacon flashes every five seconds to guide mariners to their destinations…that is when it isn’t frozen over!
Over the years, the lighthouse has developed a slight tilt to the right, and the tilt is visible from the shore if you look carefully….
Author’s note: Of course the best time to view the lighthouse sculpture is in November to February.
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