Toronto, 23 January 2019 (MIA) – Photographers are flocking to Niagara Falls after an icy storm system left the region looking like a scene out of the Disney movie Frozen.
Snow and ice has built up around the iconic waterfall, creating stunning scenes for visitors.
Contributing to the icy vista was a weather system moving over North America from west to east, which the US National Weather Service said was strengthened by Arctic air from Canada.
Tourist Emma Grafham told CNN the wintry scene reminded her of Frozen.
“There was even this set of stairs that were placed just outside the look-out spot and they had so much ice on them,” she said.
Visitors willing to brave the cold were rewarded with incredible photo opportunities — but while social media was abuzz with the “frozen falls”, it is highly unlikely Niagara Falls will actually freeze over.
Mist and spray from the falls freezes in the low temperatures and forms a icy crust over the falling water, Niagara Parks said, make it appear as though the falls have stopped.
But the water continues to flow under the sheets of ice.
“The only documented incident of the falls being frozen completely came in March of 1848 when the Buffalo Express Newspaper stated the cause to be ice damming at the mouth of Lake Erie,” US State Parks spokeswoman Kristin King explained in a blog post.
“Even during the infamous Polar Vortex of 2014, the falls continued to flow.”
The ice boom is comprised of 22 floating steel pontoons which are connected with steel cables and anchored to the bottom of the river.
The structure, spanning 2.7 kilometres, has been installed at the mouth of the Niagara River at Fort Erie each winter since 1964 and is usually removed by April 1, according to Niagara Falls Tourism.
The boom reduces the amount of drifting ice entering the river and creating ice jams, while also maintaining the flow of water for hydro-electric power production.
In the past, ice build-ups had created some high-risk walks for daring tourists.
“During the early 1900’s tourists would often walk out onto ‘ice bridges’ forming across the top of the Falls,” King said.
“This activity proved to be very dangerous and was forbidden after February 1914.”
The Niagara Falls region is expected to be coated in snow for the next few days, with the area bracing for more storms.
On Wednesday, a Canadian weather alert warned of a “band of snow mixed with ice pellets” which was expected to mix with “freezing rain”.
“Freezing rain warnings are issued when rain falling in sub-zero temperatures creates ice build-up and icy surfaces,” the alert said.
About 2 to 5 centimetres of snow, considered light snow by the Canadian weather bureau, was forecast, along with temperatures that felt like -5 degrees Celsius.