Four vehicles crashed through the ice in four separate incidents on Madison Lake over the weekend. Blue Earth County Sheriff’s Captain Paul Barta said the occupants of the vehicles that fell through suffered some level of exposure, but no long-term injuries are expected.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ Joe Albert with the Enforcement Division said ice conditions can change rapidly, and drivers shouldn’t assume ice is safe because others have driven on it. He cautioned anglers, “Just because you see tracks somewhere, don’t assume it’s safe. Check for yourself.”
He added that they should take steps to be prepared in case they do end up in the water that include, “If you’re going to be on the ice, wear a lifejacket. Have your ice picks in case you go in. Preparing on the front end can help alleviate some problems when you’re out there.”
Safe ice thickness depends on the vehicle that’s being driven and Albert explained, “If you’re on a snowmobile or ATV you’re looking for 5-7 inches; 8-12 inches for a car; and then 12-15 inches for a truck.”
On the state’s frozen lakes, ice doesn’t freeze uniformly and Albert said, “You might have 12 inches in one spot and 100 feet away have eight inches or five inches or even less than that If there’s a spring or something like that so people really need to stop and check every 150 feet.”
Albert said not only is it a bone-chilling experience that can be dangerous or deadly but falling through the ice can also be costly because, “You’ve got to have a special vehicle come out and retrieve the vehicle or the snowmobile or the ATV and that can be expensive. It’s certainly a situation people want to avoid.”