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Our Opinion: The ice is not so nice this time of year

We need to be patient. This cold start to spring can’t last forever, and soon the ice will be out on area lakes, the water will warm up and we can move on to more safely enjoy our lakes and rivers again.

Brainerd Dispatch editorial
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The adage “ice is never 100% safe” is often reserved for the start of winter, not the end.

Area law enforcement and Minnesota Department of Natural Resources officials use the refrain often when ice starts forming on lakes in November and December.

And with good reason — invariably, someone ventures out on the ice almost as soon as it forms, sometimes with only an inch or two present.

That, in turn, triggers the ice safety mantra — it’s not to say people can’t go out on the ice, it's more of a warning about the dangers possible in doing so, as well as a reminder of safety tips that could save someone’s life.

In April, we’re usually biding our time for the ice to go out, not thinking of venturing on it. But after two incidents in the past week on area waterways, we feel the warning that “ice is never 100% safe” deserves a repeat.

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The first incident happened April 3 on the Mississippi River near Little Falls, where a woman fell out of her kayak on the river. She spent almost an hour in the icy, frigid water before being rescued by Morrison County Sheriff’s Department.

On that same day, the Crow Wing County Sheriff’s Department responded to a report of an all-terrain vehicle through the ice off a landing on North Long Lake. In that incident, the operator was able to get out of the water on his own and was unharmed.

Thin ice warnings are now becoming ubiquitous on area lakes, and for good reason.

“The ice is thin, it's dangerous. It's definitely the time of the year when the ice is deteriorating,” Morrison County Sheriff Shawn Larsen told the Dispatch in a Tuesday, April 5, story. “Hypothermia is something that we all have to be cognizant about and worry about, not only for the victims but for emergency personnel responding to assist. People are going to be on the ice, we just want to make sure that they're always checking the ice first. … Ice is never 100% consistent from one spot to the next.”

While the calendar says it’s spring it’s still feeling an awful lot like winter. Temperatures are dropping below freezing at night, ice is still prevalent on our lakes and snow is still falling.

But despite all that, we have been slowly warming up the past month, and the ice on the lakes is deteriorating and getting dark — a sure sign we’re approaching ice out.

We can understand the desire of some to test the ice out a little longer, or to get a jump start on their kayaking season, but the dangers outweigh the reward. Not only do you stand a chance of putting your own life in danger, but you also can put the lives of those who need to rescue you in danger.

We need to be patient. This cold start to spring can’t last forever, and soon the ice will be out on area lakes, the water will warm up and we can move on to more safely enjoy our lakes and rivers again.

The Brainerd Dispatch Editorial Board members are Dispatch and Echo Journal Publisher Pete Mohs, former Dispatch Publisher Terry McCollough, Dispatch Editor Matt Erickson, Dispatch Managing Editor Renee Richardson and Echo Journal Editor Nancy Vogt.
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