Winter in Minnesota ended a lot like it began: with trucks, ATVs and people falling through thin ice.
Numerous vehicles and people have broken through ice around the state recently as unseasonably warm weather has quickly thawed lake ice.
"The number of vehicles that have gone through this season is unbelievable,'' said Kim Elverum, Department of Natural Resources boat and water safety administrator. "There's nothing to compare it to in my 38 years on the job.''
At Norway Lake near Pine River, two trucks broke through ice over the weekend, and a tow truck sent to retrieve the vehicles also went through the ice. No one was hurt.
"They will be waiting for open water to remove the vehicles,'' said DNR conservation officer Nikki Shultz. "That shouldn't be too long the way we're going.''
At Lake Mille Lacs over the weekend, at least three people and ATVs went through ice. No one was seriously injured. And vehicles went through ice in Aitkin County and near Perham and Fergus Falls. At Voyageurs National Park near International Falls, ATVs broke through ice in two incidents, again without serious injuries.
The DNR doesn't track how many people or vehicles break through the ice, but anecdotally a remarkable number of reports have come in all season, Elverum said. With the recent record-breaking warmth, he advised anglers and others to stay off ice.
"They shouldn't even be thinking about going out there,'' he said.
On Saturday, the National Park Service said, an ATV fell through ice in the narrows between Lake Kabetogama and Namakan Lake in Voyageurs National Park. Two men and their three children were riding on one ATV when the vehicle broke through the ice. All five were able to jump off and onto thicker ice to reach the shoreline before the ATV sank, the Park Service said.
When one man returned to retrieve his fishing gear and mark the location of the sunken ATV, he fell through the ice and struggled for 15 minutes before pulling himself out.
Another ATV went through the ice in the park on Friday. Ice conditions have rapidly deteriorated, and the Park Service is warning visitors to avoid all travel on the ice.
This season, four people have died in Minnesota after falling through ice.
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