Ice deaths on the rise
BEMIDJI – This winter is shaping up to be one of the most dangerous on Minnesota waters in recent memory.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources announced Friday that there have been six ice-related fatalities so far this winter season, which runs from November to April. That includes one missing person who fell through the ice while snowmobiling on the St. Croix River.
That number is the highest since 2006, when there were seven deaths related to falling through the ice.
Most of the deaths this winter have happened in the Twin Cities metro area, including a 9-month old girl who was in the sport utility vehicle her father was driving when it broke through the ice in January on Lake Minnetonka.
There hasn’t been an ice-related death in Beltrami County since 2011.
Often, these deaths have involved a motor vehicle of some kind, including all-terrain vehicles and snowmobiles. But this winter is the first since 2008 that road vehicles have been involved in fatal accidents on the ice.
“We recommend that people don’t drive onto the ice because you never know when you’re going to run into thin ice or a patch of open water,” said Kara Owens, a boat and water safety specialist with the DNR. She said if people do drive on the ice, they should unlock their doors and roll down their windows in case they need to escape.
Owens emphasized that no ice is 100 percent safe, but the DNR has recommendations to help people determine ice safety.
Clear ice 4 inches thick is recommended for ice fishing, 5 inches for a snowmobile or ATV, 8 to 12 inches for a car or small truck, and 15 inches for a medium truck.
However, once snow piles up on the ice it can weaken it and insulate it from the cold air, Owens said. A school of fish or vegetation under the ice can also impact its safety, she said.
“It’s crucial that people don’t let their guard down,” Owens said.