Lake Erie’s ice boom, pictured Thursday, keeps ice chunks from flowing down the Niagara River and into the Niagara Power Plant’s intakes.

Boom, there it is.

This year’s ice boom is not leaving the eastern end of Lake Erie, spring celebrations marking its removal or not.

Boom Days, annual celebrations of spring along Buffalo Niagara’s waterfront, were first tied to the scheduled April 1 removal of Lake Erie’s ice boom.

Bureaucrats set that date. But Mother Nature is dictating otherwise.

As of midweek, there still was an estimated 840 square miles of ice on the eastern end of Lake Erie. Coverage must get down to 250 square miles before removal of the ice boom can begin under an International Joint Commission policy.

Last year, the boom removal did not begin until April 29. It wasn’t finished until May 7 – an all-time record for tardiness.

And, although this year’s ice boom will stay in place for now, forecast temperatures in the 50s and 60s through Monday –with some showers aiding the melting process –mean it might not be around too much longer. The Army Corps of Engineers conducted its last “ice flight” to check progress Wednesday and another is scheduled for Friday.

Even so, Boom Days festivities in Buffalo and Niagara Falls will go on Saturday as scheduled.

Entrepreneur Rick Smith and architect Clint Brown founded Boom Days in Buffalo in 2002 to celebrate the waterfront’s heritage with a first rite of spring. At one point, it was a multiday celebration held at venues stretching from Buffalo to Youngstown.

Through the years, there have been several changes in the celebration’s duration and location – as well as when it’s held.

“It’s been all over the place, but it kind of adds to the fun,” said Mark Donnelly, who organized Saturday’s events at Buffalo’s Silo City, which run from 2 to 10 p.m.

They’ll still be dropping 7-foot weather balloons off the deck of the Edward M. Cotter fireboat, but new this year is Stone Soup @ Silo City, in which each person who buys a bowl of soup gets one vote to determine what creative project the sales proceeds will fund.

Boom Days typically are scheduled in early April – after the boom was removed and to avoid conflict with religious holidays in the spring, said Kenneth Sherman, organizer of Niagara Falls Boom Days.

“The booms were always (out) by the 10th or so of April, but lately that’s not the case,” Sherman said.

Events in Niagara Falls include a flotilla of canoes and kayaks, led by people dressed as historical figures. It sets out from the foot of 87th Street, where Cayuga Creek meets the Little Niagara River, to LaSalle Yacht Club, which will host revelers from 6 to 10 p.m.

It should be clear sailing Saturday, but that hasn’t always been the case.

“Two years in a row, we had so much ice we had to push ice aside to get to the shoreline,” Sherman recalled Thursday. “This year it’s not there.”

The boom, which stretches approximately 8,800 feet from the outer breakwater at Buffalo Harbor toward the Canadian shore, is intended to keep ice chunks from flowing down the Niagara River and damaging property – particularly the intakes of the Niagara Power Project. It was first installed in the winter of 1964-65.

Removing it takes several days. The earliest it has been removed was March 2, 2012; the latest was May 7 last year.

Besides temperature, wind direction and speed, rainfall and the thickness of the ice also affect the melting rate, according to meteorologists.

“There’s a lot of factors that go into the melting of the ice,” noted David Thomas, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Buffalo.

The International Joint Commission uses aircraft, radar and satellite imagery to analyze ice coverage, but the weather service employs a 1920s method in declaring an “ice out” date for the lake: when the water temperature reaches 34 degrees at the entrance to the Buffalo Water Treatment Plant. That’s where the U.S. Coast Guard takes its daily readings.

On Thursday, the water temperature there was 33 degrees.

News Staff Reporter T.J. Pignataro contributed to this report. email: jhabuda@buffnews.com and tpignataro@buffnews.com

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