COLUMBUS (TDB) -- The Great Lakes region is deep in winter, the season when the annual ice-cover is supposed to be thickening and hiding the open water until the sun climbs higher in the sky and brings the thaw. This year, something seems awry. There is hardly any ice anywhere on the lakes.
In Sandusky -- 12 days from today -- the shoreline community is scheduled to hold its annual ''Sandusky Bay Ice Festival" where ice boats race and ice-fishermen vie for the biggest catch. The State of Ohio's tourism office is touting the town's Lake Erie freeze-a-thon on its DiscoverOhio.com Web site. But the odds of having any ice this year are thin at best. Of course, the cause might not be global warming or climate change -- but surely something is happening.
An Army Corps of Engineers official in Detroit says there won't even be an ice-bridge formed this winter to Mackinac Island, which means the cold that usually grips the Upper Great Lakes has not come.
Meanwhile, a forecast by the Canadian government, which draws upon U.S. and Canadian meteorological data, says all the lakes are pretty much ice free now and foresees a January with above normal temps. The forecast predicts that ice won't come in time for Sandusky: "In the Western Basin, ice will begin to form along the shore during the third week of January and spread to cover a significant portion of the basin by the end of the month."
And elsewhere: ''The rest of Lake Erie -- During the last week of January, coastal new and thin lake ice will form."
Data for all the lakes shows the annual freeze-up is running later than normal nearly everywhere.