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Warm Weather Prompts Thin Ice Warnings In Metro

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(credit: CBS) Lauren Casey
Lauren Casey joined the WCCO-TV weather team in August 2011, a...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — There’s been plenty of ice rescues this winter, along with stories about ATVs and fish houses going through the ice.

But, that’s not keeping some people off of those not-so-frozen lakes. Some people are starting to put up fish houses on the lakes in Stearns County. But the DNR says this year more than ever you need to be extra careful on the ice.

And in Sherburne County, officials are recommending that no one places fish houses on the county lakes after there were several instances of fish houses partially submerged on three county lakes Tuesday.

In a nut shell, the warm temperatures means we haven’t had the kind of conditions it takes to form good, solid ice — particularly cold nights.

Frozen lakes are great for recreation, like skating and ice fishing. But on Tuesday, an ice boat broke through thin ice on Lake Minnetonka, proving how dangerous thin ice can be.

In fact, the DNR says this year’s ice is the most dangerous they have seen.

“This is kind of unprecedented,” said Kim Elverum. “We’ve never seen conditions quite like this before and that’s not only my opinion, but those of the conservation officers and the county sheriffs departments, as well.”

It takes weeks of cold weather to freeze lakes to the point they are safe for walking and driving. The DNR says 4 inches is the minimum for ice fishing, and five inches for snowmobiles. Cars and trucks need 8 to 15 inches of ice thickness.

We’ve been seeing this very mild winter weather so far because of the arctic oscillation, which right now has lower pressure at the polar region and higher pressure at the mid latitudes, where we live and it’s keeping that arctic, frigid air bottled up, preventing it from spilling into our backyards.

The DNR says no ice is 100 percent safe. They say ice fishers should check with a local bait shop or resort before going onto the ice. And rivers are more dangerous than lakes.

“Ice on a river is always subject to current and that’s not good because the current can erode the ice,” Elverum said. “If you fall through the ice on a river, the current will also have a tendency to carry you away underneath the ice.”

The Arctic Oscillation is forecasted to shift in the coming weeks, likely allowing some that frigid air to finally move in and build up some thickness to lake ice around the state, but of course we need to be very careful in the meantime.

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