After a Lake Minnetonka water rescue Thursday, authorities are urging people to stay off Twin Cities lakes and rivers this week due to thin ice.
An iceboat broke through the lake’s West Arm Bay just after noon Thursday, sending the boater into the frigid water, authorities said. The man was able to pull himself onto ice nearby, and a friend in a separate iceboat rescued him before the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office and Orono Police responded to the incident.
The Sheriff’s Office is still investigating the incident but issued extra precautions Thursday, urging people to stay off ice.
Ice conditions throughout the metro area are still extremely hazardous after atypically warm weather the past few months. The Sheriff’s Office said the snow forecast for the metro area in the coming days will make it appear that ice on lakes and rivers is safe when it isn’t, and people should remain vigilant, especially of children or pets near lakes and rivers.
“When folks ignore these warnings, they’re not only putting themselves in harm’s way — they’re putting the lives of first responders in danger too,” Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek said earlier this week.
It will be weeks, if not a month, he added, before ice conditions will improve enough for ice fishing. And then, people need to still wear a lifejacket and bring ice picks.
Across Minnesota, lakes and rivers remain with open water and less than 2 inches of ice, making them unsafe to walk on, let alone for fishing or driving. Earlier this month, about 50 people were stranded on Upper Red Lake in Beltrami County when the ice they were on broke loose, sending them on ice floes drifting further out on the lake. Rescue crews were able to get to the anglers in time, and no one was injured.
The state Department of Natural Resources recommends people stay off ice until it is at least 4 inches thick for ice fishing or walking on the lake, 5 inches for snowmobiling, 8 to 12 inches for a car and 12 to 15 inches for a truck.
Last winter, five people died after breaking through ice, including one toddler, according to the DNR. No deaths have been reported this winter, although several emergency ice rescues have taken place in the last few weeks, the DNR said.
For more information, go to mndnr.gov/icesafety.