Fact check: Image of frozen boats is from 2005 Switzerland ice storm, not Texas
The claim: Image shows boats in Texas covered in icicles
As a severe winter storm sweeps across large parts of the southern and central United States, leaving millions without power, a viral image has surfaced on social media purporting to show boats at a marina in Texas under frozen sheets of ice.
The photo of the ice-encrusted boats went viral in a Feb. 15 post that has over 4,600 shares in which a Facebook user wrote, "Taken by a friend in Kemah, TX today. Okay. I was told it was Kemah. Maybe not. We still had snow on the beach in Galveston, TX nearby. Icicles everywhere in Texas!"
USA TODAY reached out to the user behind the post for comment.
Photo is from 2005 in Switzerland
As pointed out by users in the comments of the posts, the image of the boats covered in icicles is genuine, but it was taken at Lake Léman in Geneva, Switzerland, not Texas.
A reverse Google image search shows that the photo was captured in January 2005 by Swiss photographer Jean-Pierre Scherrer and posted to PBase.com, an online photo-sharing site.
A photo gallery published by Scherrer shows similar scenes from the aftermath of the Geneva ice storm, featuring images of frozen cars, trees and benches. He noted the images were shot in Switzerland, and not Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.
"After a conjunction of intense cold (-10 to -18 degrees Centigrade), plus very strong winds, blowing at over 100 kmh (70 mph), the waves got so harsh that they passed over the dikes and the droplets immediately froze everything they touched!" Scherrer wrote along with his photos.
In a comment under the photo gallery, Scherrer said living in Geneva for over 60 years he had never seen such a thing.
"I remember having seen several times the lakesides frozen, and even the lake itself partly iced, in 1956 (as I went ice-skating on it!)," he wrote. "BUT, this phenomenon of strong winds—in the right direction—PLUS very low temperature seems to be rather rare!"
Scherrer's photos have previously gone viral alongside false claims that the images were taken in Chicago. Hoax-Slayer reported in 2019 that the photos are authentic and debunked rumors that they were taken in the United States.
Texas coastal areas are closed
Authentic photos of boats in Texas that are not covered in ice were recently shared on Facebook by the Kemah Boardwalk Marina.
"Although the sun has come out in Kemah, icy conditions have not improved with the temperatures still in the mid 20’s and expected to drop into the teens overnight," Kemah Boardwalk Marina wrote on Feb. 15. "Docks and ramps continue to be extremely slick and access is still not recommended. Temperatures are forecast to move above freezing late tomorrow afternoon."
Due to freezing weather conditions and in an effort to protect wildlife and resources, many saltwater fishing spots and piers along the coast in Texas have been closed, according to KSAT.com.
As of late Wednesday, 3 million customers remained without power in Texas and much of east Texas was under a winter storm warning in anticipation of the next round of snow and ice, USA TODAY reported.
Our rating: False
An image claiming to show frozen boats in Texas during a winter storm is FALSE, based on our research. The photo was taken in January 2005 in Geneva, Switzerland, during an ice storm where winds were at 70 mph. Similar images from the Switzerland ice storm have been previously misused and debunked over the years. Authentic photos of boats in Texas taken during the storm show that they are not frozen over with icicles.
Our fact-check sources:
- PBase.com, Jan. 29, 2005, Ice Storm over Geneva, Switzerland
- PBase.com, Jan. 29, 2005, Ice Storm over Geneva, Switzerland gallery
- WUSA9, Jan. 31, 2019, "VERIFY: Cars stuck under frozen tundra-like scene in Chicago legit?"
- Hoax-Slayer, Jan. 22, 2019, "Léman Lake Switzerland Ice Storm Photographer"
- Kemah Boardwalk Marina, Feb. 15, Facebook post
- KSAT.com, Feb. 14, "These fishing spots on the South Texas coast will be temporarily closed due to freezing weather"
- USA TODAY, Feb. 16, "'Another snow/ice producer' is on the way as US endures brutal blast of winter weather blamed for at least 20 deaths"
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