Recent ice floe rescues prompt officials to issue warning

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Officials are telling Minnesotans that it's too late in the season to walk out on the ice – or rather, lack thereof.

The Coast Guard issued a warning Wednesday saying warming temperatures and shifting winds have caused extremely hazardous ice conditions throughout lakes and rivers in the upper Midwest, which has increased the possibility of the remaining ice to break apart.

There have been a few cases this week of people getting rescued after going out on the ice.

Three men were walking on what they thought was the bank of the Mississippi River near Brainerd when they found themselves floating on a 15-by-30-foot chunk of ice Wednesday afternoon, the Brainerd Dispatch says. The ice floe had come to a stop in the river, possibly caught on tree stumps, a neighbor said.

Firefighters had to climb down a 100-foot embankment carrying their gear to get to the shore of the river, where they launched two inflatable banana rescue boats to get the young men off the ice floe, the newspaper says.

The rescue took all of 10 minutes and no one had to enter the icy waters of the Mississippi, according to the paper.

Officials said in recent days the river has opened up through the middle, but snow-covered ice still clings to the edges. Brainerd Fire Chief Kevin Stunek said this is a good reminder – a good warning – about ice conditions.

On Wednesday, Firefighters in McFarland, Wisconsin had to rescue two ice fishermen from Mud Lake when the ice rapidly melted beneath them, according to WMTV.

And on Monday, Coast Guard officials in Duluth got a report of 15-20 people adrift on an ice floe. But by the time officials arrived they had jumped safely back to shore before the chunk of ice drifted too far away, Up North Live says.

The Coast Guard is reminding people to pay attention to rapidly changing ice conditions.

Last week, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources released a statement saying that although it doesn't feel like spring, cooler temperatures don't mean the ice is safe. Ice in and around the state is in the melting stage and thickness levels vary from one area of a lake to another.

As of March 20, two people have died from falling through the ice or in open water this winter. There were six ice fatalities last winter, the DNR says.

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