Two kids riding ATVs broke through the ice on a lake in St. Louis County on Monday, prompting the sheriff's office to remind people to check ice thickness before heading out.
According to the St. Louis Couty Sheriff's Office, the two were riding separate ATVs on Fish Lake Reservoir when they broke through the ice around 4:45 p.m. Monday.
The kids made it back to shore safely, the release says.
The sheriff's office reminded people to check the thickness of ice before going out on frozen water. The Minnesota Department of Resources says ice is never 100% safe and you should check ice thickness every 150 feet because it can change.
As a general guideline, the DNR says there should be 4 inches of new, clear ice if you want to go ice fishing or do any other activities on foot. If you plan to snowmobile or ride an ATV on the ice, it should be 5-7 inches thick with new, clear ice. To drive a car or small pickup, there needs to be a minimum of 8 inches of new, clear ice, and a minimum of 12 inches is needed for a medium-sized truck.
The DNR says white ice or "snow ice" is only about half as strong as new, clear ice. So the above thicknesses should be doubled when going out on a lake that has white ice.
Last winter (2019-20), two people died after breaking through the ice, DNR data show. One person who was on foot broke through the ice on the St. Louis River in Carlton County in late November and died. The other involved a snowmobiler who went into the water on Olson Lake in Grant County in late February.
On average, three people die from breaking through the ice per winter season in Minnesota (this is based on an average over the past five seasons – 2015-16 through 2019-20), the DNR says.
Of the 15 ice-related fatalities from 2015 to last winter, 13 people died while riding a snowmobile or ATV on the ice, one death involved a motor vehicle and the other was someone on foot, data show.
Late ice-ins, pristine skating
Although ice has started forming on many lakes across the state, ice-in was delayed this year thanks to a milder-than-normal November and early December, MPR News reports.
The median ice-in date on most lakes in the northern two-thirds of the state ranges from late November to early December, according to the DNR. (Note: The DNR tracks ice-in dates but for the current year it doesn't post them in real-time due to safety concerns and because reported ice on lakes may not be permanent for the season and varies from lake to lake.)
This year, though, many of the larger lakes in central and southern Minnesota still had open water at the start of December, MPR said.
But in the days since, smooth black ice has formed on some lakes creating pristine skating conditions due to the lack of snow. (Remember, ice should be at least 4 inches thick to go skating.)
These conditions aren't seen too often in Minnesota because there's usually snow, but they've become more common in recent years (winter 2018-19 had great skating ice too).