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Drivers warned about ice heaves on lakes

Bemidji State University student Nate Heisick walks around open water on Lake Bemidji on Monday afternoon. A vehicle's front tires broke through ice in this area due to an ice heave. Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper

Ice anglers are urged to take caution when considering crossing ice heaves on area lakes.

At approximately 7:30 a.m. Saturday, the rear wheels of a vehicle fell through Blackduck Lake after a driver attempted to cross an ice heave off of the Blackduck Lake Road Northeast access point.

In the report, the responding Beltrami County sheriff's deputy noted it was made obvious the public should not use the access to enter onto the lake.

Sheriff Phil Hodapp said he talked to the deputy and learned the ice heave stuck out about 4 feet from the surface of the lake.

"The ice heave is so big and high, anyone with a half a brain wouldn't try and cross it," he said Monday.

Beltrami County dispatch also received a call Monday morning about a vehicle's front end falling into open water on Lake Bemidji after the driver tried to cross a thin spot on the ice while searching for a place to park on the lake.

Hodapp said law enforcement officials typically mark areas considered potentially dangerous, but officials do not always know where these areas are.

"Our lakes are getting springtime ice fishing conditions," he said. "There are areas where there's flowing water under the ice and it creates thin ice in areas that are not obvious to a person looking at it."

This is why Hodapp said it is still risky to take large vehicles onto the ice.

On some lakes, resort owners have taken wooden planks or sheets of steel to make bridges over ice heaves that occur along designated ice roads. But in places where there are no bridges, ice fishermen should not attempt to cross large ice heaves, Hodapp said. Instead, anglers should find a place where the ice is safer to cross, but even this can be tricky.

He recommends anglers who still choose to drive on lakes take it easy and drive slow.

"If you drive fast, you're pushing water under the ice out in front of your vehicle," he said. "As your vehicle gets closer to shore, there's no place for the water to go except up, causing ice to bust up."

Hodapp said people should slow down, know where they are at, be familiar with the lake and not go out onto the ice known to be thin, Hodapp added.

"Catching a few fish is not worth dumping the car into the lake," he said.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources also urged ice safety Monday.

The DNR says ice needs to be at least 8 inches thick in order to support a car or small pickup and at least 12 inches for a medium-sized truck. But these thicknesses are guidelines for new, clear, solid ice, the DNR states. Many factors other than thickness can cause ice to be unsafe.

The DNR says a person cannot judge the strength of ice by its appearance, age, thickness, temperature or whether it is covered with snow.