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As Hockey Day nears, sheriff's office advises caution on Lake Bemidji ice

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The Beltrami County Sheriff’s Office put hazard fencing and markers near the area where the Mississippi River feeds into Lake Bemidji. Submitted photo. 2 / 2

BEMIDJI—With Hockey Day Minnesota festivities coming to Bemidji this week, the Beltrami County Sheriff's Office wants to remind residents and visitors that lake ice is never 100 percent safe.

While games for Hockey Day Minnesota will be played on a rink set up in the parking lot on the South Shore near the Sanford Center, the event is expected to draw thousands of people to the community, many of whom will want to access the lake.

According to Sheriff Ernie Beitel, deputies have been monitoring the ice conditions as Hockey Day Minnesota nears and are finding the ice thickness and quality varies widely throughout Lake Bemidji. Deputies have found ice thickness in areas of the south portion of Lake Bemidji to only be 13 to 20 inches thick and areas in the northern parts of the lake to be as little as 6 inches of ice. Deputies also report areas with snow cover have significant water/slush on top of the ice.

"There is no exact science to how much weight a certain lake can support, ice thickness, clarity, snow cover and plethora of other factors play a significant role. Ice is never 100 percent safe," the release said.

If you choose to go onto the ice with your vehicle, the sheriff's office encourages you to:

• Keep plenty of distance between your vehicle and other vehicles.

• Reduce your speed, especially as you approach access points. Vehicles traveling on the ice can create a wave under the ice and can quickly deteriorate those access points plus increase the risk for you to travel on the ice.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has the following guidelines for ice thickness, for new, clear ice only:

• Under 4 inches: Stay off

• 4 inches: Ice fishing or other activities by foot

• 5 to 7 inches: Snowmobile or ATV

• 8 to 12 inches: Car or small pickup.

• 12 to 15 inches: Medium truck.

White ice or "snow ice" is only about half as strong as new clear ice. Double the above thickness guidelines when traveling on white ice, the DNR says.

Hockey Day Minnesota in Bemidji is set for Thursday-Saturday, Jan. 17-19.