MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office declared ice out on Lake Minnetonka on Thursday at 9:48 a.m, marking the official start to Minnesota’s 2020 boating season.

It’s comes as an unusual start for boaters, because amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, Minnesota currently has a stay at home order in place. Gov. Walz’s order allows for boating, but there are a few restrictions in place. Groups of people can be on a boat together, even if that boat does not allow for social distancing. However, boats are not allowed to tie together, as this would “constitute an illegal gathering under Gov. Walz’s executive order.”

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The Sheriff’s Office declares ice outs each year, in partnership with Freshwater, after routinely patrolling Lake Minnetonka to monitor ice thickness until they are able to safely pilot a boat through all of the lakes’ channels and bays without obstruction by ice.

The county says the average ice out date is around April 14. The record for the earliest ice out was March 17 in 2016 — while the latest was recorded on  May 5 in both 1857 and 2018.

“Obviously, this is an unusual start to boating season,” Hennepin County Sheriff David P. Hutchinson told the media. “We know that not everyone who enjoys water recreation will be able to get out onto the lake due to the state’s Stay at Home order. However, we know that there will still be people getting out on the lakes as normal, and we’re encouraging everyone to keep basic water safety in mind.”

Here are the Sheriff’s tips:

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  • Use caution when boating on Lake Minnetonka. There are many navigational buoys that are not in place yet.
  • Wear a life jacket. Water temperatures on all bodies of water are cold and hypothermia can happen quickly.
  • Let someone know where you are going and when you will return.
  • Supervise children.
  • All recreational boats that have an enclosed accommodation compartment must be equipped with a watercraft carbon monoxide detector.


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