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Great thaw underway across Minnesota as ice out approaches

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As temperatures warm up around Minnesota, talk turns to the great thaw finally underway around the state.

After a long, cold winter with a record number of below-zero temperatures in many areas, there is a lot of snow and ice to melt.

Check out this video of water cascading mightily over Gooseberry Falls posted Friday on Twitter by Duluth News Tribune videographer Andrew Krueger:

He also posted this shot of geese at dusk Thursday on Rice Lake north of Duluth.

DNR forecasters say as of the first week of April, there were no significant bodies of water in Minnesota without ice cover.

Ice out is when the lakes are finally free of ice and begin to significantly warm.

As of an April 9 analysis, the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory listed the current ice cover for the Great Lakes at just over 53 percent.

That’s still a lot of ice this late in the year, but considering the coverage was at more than 90 percent just a month ago, the big thaw is clearly steaming forward, Outdoor Life reports.

Experts caution the thaw could be dangerous. Ice is unpredictable this time of year.

“Ice conditions are rapidly changing,” says Karl Willis, with the Coast Guard 9th District Command Center in Cleveland.

“Warming temperatures and wind significantly affect ice strength and can lead to extremely hazardous conditions with a high probability for drifting pack ice.”

Demonstrating the unpredictability of late ice, a group of 15 to 20 people were reportedly trapped on a drifting ice floe near Duluth.

All managed to jump back to land as the ice floe neared shore, but things could’ve just as easily gone very badly, Outdoor Life reports.

The Coast Guard offers these tips for late-ice safety: Wear proper clothing, stay in groups, know ice conditions before setting out, and keep life-saving equipment such and keep life-saving equipment such as life jackets and ice picks handy.

State environmental officials say ice out dates are extremely variable from year to year, ranging by as much as six to eight weeks, and accurate long-term projections of ice out are currently beyond the reach of science.

But we are clearly getting there.

The back edge of snow melt is “working north through northern Minnesota,” according to MPR News meteorologist Paul Huttner. 

Huttner posted this cool graphic showing the remaining snow cover in Minnesota.

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