Avoid falling through a hole in the ice like this one

Ice is never technically 100 percent safe. But it's really not safe yet.
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Here's a story everyone should be glad didn't have a much worse ending.

That photo above shows a homemade ice rink on a lake in Circle Pines – with a giant hole that opened up on it, as the Centennial Lakes Police Department pointed out. It led to a "massive" response from emergency responders worried about what happened.

Luckily, the young skater who had been around was OK – they were found nearby a short time later, and hadn't gone into the water.

But the hole underscores the bigger issue right now. It hasn't been that cold, and most bodies of water aren't iced up enough to be out on yet.

"Ice conditions remain unpredictable. Please stay off the ice," the Centennial Lakes PD wrote in its Facebook post.

Stay off the ice

That's just the latest warning.

The Hennepin County Sheriff's Office issued one late last week, which also happened to come after two dogs in Eagan fell in and had to be rescued. The warm fall (at least up until the last few days) means ice is still forming on most lakes and rivers and other waters, the office said. And even small lakes that look like they could be safe probably aren't yet.

So watch kids and pets around waters, and be extra careful right now.

And on Monday, the DNR said aerated lakes (that's ones with aeration systems) are also very iffy right now. They're used to prevent fish kill, but can create and leave big open gaps of water. The DNR has a list of 295 lakes that will likely have those systems running this winter.

The Wright County Sheriff's Office also pointed out, if you go on thin ice, it's not only your own life that's at risk – first responders could also be in danger if you break through and they work to rescue you.

When is it safe?

Well, officials consistently say ice is never completely safe. There's always a chance something weird or unpredictable happens.

But generally speaking, the DNR says ice should be at least 4 inches thick before you walk on it. You can see their handy little guide above. Their website has safety tips if you plan on going out on the ice.

Four people died after breaking through ice last year, DNR figures show. Of all the deaths from the 2010-11 winter, through the 2014-15 winter, half of them occurred when someone was on a snowmobile or ATV. About a quarter each happened with another vehicle, or with someone on foot.

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