DNR says rain and refreezing deteriorated ice conditions on Minnesota lakes

December 29, 2018 06:22 PM

This week's rain and refreezing have taken a toll on Minnesota lakes. The DNR is warning people to be extra careful as they head out on the ice.

“Ice is never 100 percent safe,” said DNR Conservation Officer James Fogarty.


He showed 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS how conditions have deteriorated on Prior Lake.

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“Right on the surface is ice that has air pockets,” he said, pointing to a section about four inches thick. “The top portion of the ice I would not consider as safe.”

The rain pools on tops of the lakes.

“It’s going to create a heavier burden for the ice to bear,” said Fogarty. “If the ice isn’t quite as thick as it needs to be, you'll see it will open up, crack.”

He also told KSTP inlet and outlet conditions can change in a matter of hours.

Five people have died on the ice while on a snowmobile or ATV already this year, according to the DNR. Six people died during all of last season.

“People become complacent that because there's snow on top of the ice, that the ice is safe and that the ice is thick enough,” said Fogarty.

He said the snow actually acts as an insulator, preventing more ice from forming.

Last season, he responded to a close call on the ice under a Prior Lake bridge.

“He was in the water, lucky enough to stand on his ATV and get out,” said Fogarty.

The ice around bridges is especially dangerous because as plows go by, snow mixed with salt comes over the edge. It weakens the ice below as a result.

“I’m constantly testing the ice,” he said. “Use that ice auger every 150 feet and just see how deep the ice really is.”

He looks for at least four inches of solid, clear ice to walk on. ATVs and snowmobiles require ice that’s six to eight inches thick. It needs to be a foot for larger vehicles like cars and pickup trucks.

Fogarty said if the ice is lighter in color, with visible air bubbles, those depths should be doubled.

If you do go in the ice, he said, “let the back half of your body float up, don’t try to remove clothing that is a common mistake.”

Instead, Fogarty tells 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS, it will retain some heat.

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