About 50 people rescued from breakaway ice sheet on Lake of the Woods

Dozens of people had to be rescued from the ice on Lake of the Woods on New Year’s Day, the latest emergency response during an uncharacteristically mild winter.

The Lake of the Woods County Sheriff’s Office said it received a report just before 3 p.m. Monday that 20-25 people were stranded on the north end of a pressure ridge that had cracked open.

At the time of the call, Long Point Resort had brought a boat out into the open water to bring people from the north side of the pressure ridge onto the south side, where they were then brought to shore by UTV or snowmobile, the sheriff’s office said.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources assisted the sheriff’s deputies in the rescue effort, using airboats and UTVs to get people off the lake. In total, about 50 people were rescued, officials said.

The sheriff’s office also noted that earlier in the afternoon, a person got himself out of the water unscathed after his ATV fell through the ice about a mile off of Long Point.

Emergency agencies and DNR officials have been warning Minnesotans of unsafe ice conditions statewide. Rainstorms and one of the warmest Decembers on record kept many lakes from building up ice that’s thick enough to bring vehicles or structures onto.

Just last week, a man drowned after falling through the ice on Lake of the Woods. And on Upper Red Lake, 122 anglers became stranded on an ice floe that had broken away. That incident — at least the fifth such rescue in a matter of two weeks — led officials to limit access to the lake.