Vehicle breaks through ice on Wayzata Bay of Lake Minnetonka, authorities urge caution

Authorities are urging people to repeatedly measure ice as they venture out on lakes
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Ice crash Minnetonka

With another accident, authorities are issuing safety notices regarding thin ice across the state. 

Tuesday morning, authorities responded to a submerged vehicle in Wayzata Bay, south of the Wayzata Sailing School on Lake Minnetonka, where the occupants had safely escaped.  

Hennepin County Sheriff's Water Patrol officers found that thickness of the ice varied greatly, with areas of thin ice "unusual" for this time of year, Wayzata Police Chief Michael Risvold said.  

"They didn't realize until today that Wayzata Bay is as treacherous as it is," he said. 

Hennepin County, which has jurisdiction over the lakes, has closed the access until further notice and has been placing additional "thin ice" signs around dangerous areas, he said. 

It's the first accident in Wayzata this season, but one of at least several statewide within the past month.  

Last week, Hennepin County Sheriff David Hutchinson issued a public safety notice, asking Minnesotans to measure the ice thickness by drilling a hole before they enter the ice, and continue measuring as they move through different parts of the lake. 

Conditions can vary from one day to the next, and even within the same lake. In the Twin Cities metro, Hennepin County deputies are finding lakes with areas of seven-inch thick and three-inch-thick ice close together, Hutchinson said in the release.   

The DNR recommends that ice should be at least four inches thick before walking on it. ATVs require 5 to 7 inches, and other vehicles require 8 to 15 inches, depending on size. 

Ice Thickness DNR Guidelines Graphic

“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.

Additional safety tips can be found on the Minnesota DNR website

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