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Sheriff: Twin Cities lake conditions still unpredictable

In some lakes, patches of thin and thick ice can be close together
Lake Harriet covered in snow Thursday. While it appears to be mostly frozen over, snow can make it more difficult to visually gauge thickness of ice. Lakes can have patches of safe and unsafe ice close together. 

Lake Harriet covered in snow Thursday. While it appears to be mostly frozen over, snow can make it more difficult to visually gauge thickness of ice. Lakes can have patches of safe and unsafe ice close together. 

As the holiday weekend arrives, Hennepin County Sheriff David Hutchinson has issued a release warning people to double check ice conditions before walking or driving ATVs on lakes, which he says are currently "extremely unpredictable and highly unsafe."

While some lakes in the Twin Cities have become popular spots for ice skating in recent weeks, the conditions can vary from one day to the next — and even on the same lake. 

The DNR recommends that ice should be at least four inches thick  — which you can measure by drilling a hole — before walking on it. But in some cases, Hennepin County deputies are finding seven-inch thick ice within a few feet of three-inch-thick ice, Hutchinson said in the release. 

Ice Thickness DNR Guidelines Graphic

Several accidents, including fatal ones, involving people falling through ice have occurred across the state this month. 

“Although the temperatures are low enough to freeze our lakes, the safety risk on the ice still remains very high,” Sheriff Hutchinson said in the release. 

Hutchinson gives these tips for safety: 

  • Patches of thin ice can be covered by snow
  • Carry ice picks for self-recovery
  • Carry a small throw bag so that you can help others if they fall through the ice
  • Don't panic if you start to fall through the ice — return back in the direction you walked on. 
  • Check ice thickness repeatedly as you move out
  • Areas of animal activity, like muskrats, can greatly weaken ice

If you do fall through, experts recommend taking a minute to catch your breath and locate ice in the direction you came from.

Then, extend your arms to reach the ice and kick in the water so that you can horizontally propel yourself back on to the ice. As you approach the ice, stay horizontal so that your body is evenly distributing weight across the ice.  Kare 11 aired this video last year with an example. 

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