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Ice on MN lakes are fine one hour, but bad the next, officials warn

"We've had reports of anglers falling through ice that was just fine an hour earlier. That's how fast things can change."

Here's a good reminder that ice conditions can change quickly this time of year.

Video posted to Facebook earlier this week showed an SUV gliding across a waterlogged Upper Red Lake – the layer of water on the thick lake ice was caused by snowmelt and heavy rain.

The SUV and the people inside got off the lake safely, claiming the ice was 30 inches thick so safe to drive on. But apparently that wasn't the case for another motorist.

The Beltrami County Sheriff's Office said in a Facebook post Friday that later that same night a pick-up truck got stranded and had to be rescued off the lake. The driver of the truck had to stand on the vehicle's roof to stay out of the water, and rescuers had to use snowmobiles and an inflatable rescue boat to get the driver to safety.

"Be safe, be smart ... ice conditions are very inconsistent as we approach the end of the season," the sheriff's office wrote on Facebook.

Ice conditions can change quickly

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources echoed a similar message Thursday, urging people to be cautious if they're going out on the ice, noting officials have reported more than a half-dozen ice emergencies across the state of anglers and snowmobile or ATV riders breaking through thin ice.

"We've had reports of anglers falling through ice that was just fine an hour earlier. That's how fast things can change," Lisa Dugan, recreation safety outreach coordinator with the DNR’s boat and water program, said in a statement. “If you do choose to venture onto unsafe ice, use extreme caution. Use a chisel to check the strength of the ice frequently and be sure to wear a life jacket or float coat.”

When lake ice freezes and thaws like it has this winter, it produces "extremely weak ice that is dangerous deceptive in its appearance and how thick it measures," Dugan says. The DNR says many lakes and rivers in southern and central Minnesota are close to being ice-free, and are going from ice-covered to having open water over the course of a day or two.

On lakes that are experiencing melting, the DNR recommends that no vehicles go out on those lakes, and that ice shelters are removed soon – even though the mandatory dates to remove ice shelters isn't until next month.

The Hennepin County Sheriff's Office on Thursday also asked that people stay off all bodies of water in the county, noting ice conditions should be considered unsafe for driving and walking on because of the recent warm weather and rain we've had.

“Operating any vehicle, including a snowmobile or ATV on the ice this weekend could be a life-threatening risk," the sheriff's office said, noting there are many lake access points and shorelines that have open areas of water and they should not be used.

For more information on ice safety, click here.

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