Officials Urge Extreme Caution when out on Early Ice on MN Inland Lakes

By KBJR News 1

Officials Urge Extreme Caution when out on Early Ice on MN Inland Lakes

November 30, 2012 Updated Nov 30, 2012 at 7:13 PM CDT

Duluth, MN (NNC NOW) - A three–year–old, 100 pound German Sheppard mix was pulled from the partially frozen waters of Little Hanging Horn Lake, in Barnum, after falling through the ice, Thursday evening.

Fortunately, the furry friend appeared to be in good condition when crews from the Carlton County Sheriff's office and Barnum Fire Department handed it over to its owners.

October's below average temps, coupled with November's wintry weather, have helped speed up ice production on Northland inland lakes, and other water bodies.

But, officials say this rescue only highlights the dangers that exist when setting foot on the ice this winter.

A thin sheet of ice covers a good section of Pike Lake, and the footprints along the shoreline don't lie—21 days to go until winter, and people are already setting foot on the frozen waters of Northern Minnesota.

According to Chief Meteorologist Adam Clark. we have below–average temperatures in October to thank, in part, for the early ice.

"We've been above average here, in November, but as of late, things have been very below average—as far as the temperatures go," said Clark.

But Clark admits the last place he'd want to be this weekend is out on the ice, especially with 40 degree temps heading this way.

"You have to remember, our lakes were very warm this summer, so it's going to take some time for them to ice over. With this warm air coming in, I wouldn't do any ice fishing," said Clark.

Lieutenant Jeff Koehn, District Supervisor for the MN DNR Enforcement Division, says safety guidelines should always be followed when it comes to ice thickness.

"We do not have safe ice. No time throughout the year is ice ever safe, but [especially now] we do not have safe ice," said Koehn.

Koehn says, when it comes to ice thickness, at least 4 inches for walking, 5 to 10 for off road vehicles, and 10 to 15 for cars and trucks.

But even that can't guarantee safety.

"Three to four citizens in the state drown. In recent times, those statistics have gotten better, but it's still evidence that you have to treat the cold water and Mother Nature with respect," said Koehn.

With that respect, comes recognizing the variables at play in ice formation.

Rivers, channels, and other areas of increased water flow seldom freeze uniformly, and are considered high–risk areas.

Deep–water lakes also take longer to freeze over, and snowfall can act as an insulator.

That's why Koehn urges people to always be ready to dial 9–1–1 in case of an ice emergency, but having the right tools could also increase your odds of survival after falling though.

"There [are] numerous commercial–made ice picks that a lot of people wear around their necks, or keep in their jacket. Or, you can make them out of a piece of wood and a framing nail, and you can claw your way out," said Koehn.

Koehn says screwdrivers are also double as great tools for pulling yourself out of the freezing water, and back to safety.

Once again, officials stress the importance of dialing 9–1–1 the instant an ice–related emergency takes place. Do not put yourself at risk of falling through.

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