MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – It’s been a dangerous winter on Minnesota lakes. On Lake Minnetonka alone, 14 vehicles and one snowmobile have gone through the ice – and three people have died.
A couple weeks ago, a 9-month-old girl died when her family’s SUV plunged into Lake Minnetonka. And over the weekend, a 31-year-old man and his grandmother died when their vehicle also went through the ice.
Kara Owens is the boat and water safety specialist for the DNR.
“I would definitely say it has been a unique winter for vehicles through the ice,” Owens said.
She said eight to 12 inches of ice is what is recommended by the DNR for a car or small truck. But during a winter of warm temperatures followed by deep freezes, you can’t always go by the numbers.
Owens says the up and down temperatures have created a “honeycomb effect,” where rain and snow get in, freeze and thaw, and then form cracks in the ice.
Channels are responsible for all three deaths this winter. Passing currents don’t allow channels to freeze. You can literally go from a foot of ice to an inch in a matter of feet.
“As you get near a channel it starts to definitely narrow,” she said. “And it is just completely unsafe in those channel areas.”
The DNR does want to stress that no ice should be considered “safe ice.” And they recommend not driving on frozen lakes if you can help it.