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DNR Warns Residents to Stay Off Ice

The DNR has recommendations for "safe" ice thicknesses, which varies by the weight of the object on the ice. (Yutaka Seki/Flickr)
The DNR has recommendations for "safe" ice thicknesses, which varies by the weight of the object on the ice. (Yutaka Seki/Flickr)
March 29, 2018

MINNEAPOLIS — There have been at least four incidents of animals, people or both falling through ice and needing rescue in Minnesota communities in recent days.

In one case, a dog ran out onto a lake in Lino Lakes, broke through, and its owner ran after the dog and also fell in. In the Twin Cities, a horse fell through some ice.

Lieutenant Adam Block, a conservation officer at the Department of Natural Resources, said ice this time of year just isn't as sturdy. It needs to be twice as thick to support the same amount of weight it did in early winter.

"When you're in March, we're dealing with old ice,” Block said. “It's white, it's cloudy, it's not as strong - not nearly as strong. So, it's breaking down, so that's why you need to double the thickness of that type of ice."

According to the DNR, when ice is newly formed, it is safe to walk on at a thickness of four inches, and to drive a standard-sized car on a thickness of eight to 12 inches. Block recommended checking ice thickness with an auger or similar instrument every 150 feet or so - and said if you don't have a way of checking the ice, you shouldn't be out on it.

Block said warm, rainy and windy weather in the forecast for some parts of the state makes ice even more treacherous.

"You get that water on top of the ice and the wind's blowing that water back and forth, and it's just like holding an ice cube under the kitchen faucet,” he said. “It disappears fast."

Block said it isn't enough to stay off the ice. It's also important to keep pets on a leash.

"There's a lot of geese sitting on ice right now, which would draw in a dog, potentially,” Block said. “And then if that dog falls through, the instinct of the human pet owner is to go out after them - and then they become the victim, too."

He added it is likely most of the ice on lakes and ponds will completely melt this month, so your best bet is to just stay onshore until next winter.

Elizabeth Braun, Public News Service - MN