MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — While winter can be fun, it can also be deadly. This is the time of year when virtually no ice is safe on lakes and rivers.

Ice fishing is something Minnesotans take for granted — along with walking, skating and driving on frozen lakes. But almost every year, lives are lost when people go out on unsafe ice.

“We had four last winter. They ranged in age from 81 years, being the oldest, on down. So it’s across the board. Average is around … four deaths per season,” said Kim Elverum, the Boat & Water Safety Coordinator with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Many lakes still have open water, because this fall was so warm. October was six degrees warmer than average, November five and a half degrees warmer. And then the snow came.

“Any snow on top of the ice of any quantity is going to insulate that ice from freezing as fast as it should,” said Elverum.

To be safe, ice should be four inches thick for walking, five inches thick for snowmobiles and ATVs. Cars and minivans need eight to 12 inches of ice, and medium trucks need 12 to 15 inches. And adults need to keep an eye on kids and dogs.

“That’s why we always urge parents to remember to caution kids, especially when they are on vacation now during the winter time, stay off the ice because that’s one of the groups that we have trouble with, as far as falling through,” Elverum said.

He also said there have been a couple of cases where people have gone out to rescue dogs that are on the ice, and wound up breaking through the ice and dying.

“So folks need to remember that if the dog goes out on the ice, they should try to get it back by some other way,” Elverum said.

The DNR also says you should always check local information before going out on any lake. And rivers are always dangerous because of currents under the ice.


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