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Ice boom removal still a week away

BUFFALO -- Not quite yet.

There is still more than twice the amount of ice on the eastern end of Lake Erie than is needed to remove the ice boom.

"It's not going to happen Friday, but at some point afterwards," said Michael Saltzman, spokesman for the New York Power Authority.

Ice boom regulations require that the removal of the boom start on April 1, unless there is more than 250 square miles of ice on the eastern end of the lake.

The International Joint Commission estimated late last week that about 27 percent -- or about 530 square miles -- of the lake's eastern basin was covered with ice.

The 1.7-mile-long ice boom -- made up of metal pontoons linked together -- holds back ice floes from entering the Niagara River and damaging water intakes for the Power Authority's Niagara Power Project. 

"The Power Authority is planning additional aerial observation of the lake in the coming days to obtain the latest square mileage of ice cover," Saltzman said.

Last year, crews started removing the boom March 22. The earliest the boom was opened was March 5, 1998, and the latest was May 3, 1971, according to the International Joint Commission's International Niagara Board of Control.

Steve McLaughlin, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service at Buffalo Niagara International Airport, estimated that it could be at least a week before enough ice melts on the lake to remove the boom.

McLaughlin said the temperatures this month have shaped up to be just about average.

Overall temperatures have been just 2 degrees below normal, and the 13 inches of snow that fell is about typical, McLaughlin said.

But a cold spell that started last Wednesday has kept temperatures about 15 degrees below normal for the week, McLaughlin said.

Despite the cold temperatures, constant sunshine has helped reduce the ice cover in recent days, he said.

If it seems colder this March, it might be because the last two years saw unusually warm and dry Marches, McLaughlin said. Last year, it was 84 degrees on April 2.

The good news, McLaughlin said, is that a storm forecast to hit New England and eastern New York later this week is expected to bypass the region.

Meteorologists expect some light snow and rain during the next few days.

--Denise Jewell Gee

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