Thin ice warnings in Minnesota, but not everyone is listening

January 02, 2012 at 10:47 PM

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Law enforcement agencies across Minnesota are warning people to stay off lake ice. But not everyone is listening.

Fish houses, all-terrain vehicles and people have been falling in the water as unseasonably warm weather makes ice conditions unsafe.

On Saturday, there were reports of at least three people falling through ice in the Twin Cities, including on Riley Lake in Eden Prairie and Lake Minnetonka.

The Star Tribune (http://bit.ly/uYIUbl ) reported that the abnormally warm weather is not just in the southern half of the state. Northern Minnesota is experiencing it, too.

Just before Christmas, the Lake of the Woods County sheriff issued a warning to avoid the west side of Lake of the Woods because of large cracks in the ice.

“Right now we’re advising people to stay off all of the lakes in Ramsey County,” said Inspector Jack Serier, head of the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office Water Patrol.

“The ice is definitely not safe,” said Lt. Steve Hartig of the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office Water Patrol.

Hartig’s department had an iceboat go into Lake Minnetonka in Orono. As the crew assessed the submerged iceboat, a nearby fish house fell through the lake ice. It was about the sixth fish house to be submerged in Hennepin County in the past couple of weeks.

But some aren’t scared by the warnings.

“I’m not doing anything different than last winter,” Jason Hines of Brainerd said Thursday, days after hauling a 4,000-pound fish house onto Gull Lake. “You just got to use your head and be smart.”

However, the thin ice and lack of snow have resulted in fewer fish houses on lakes, or fish houses being put out much later than normal.

At the restaurant and bar Ernie’s on Gull, owners Zac Swarthout and Chris Foy said they normally can see about 300 fish houses near their establishment. This year, that number is around 30.

Water rescues have kept some crews busy. Otter Tail County personnel have rescued six people in less than two weeks, said sheriff’s Lt. Barry Fitzgibbons.

“We’re encouraging people not to go on the lakes,” Fitzgibbons said. “But we can’t control that. It’s always travel at your own risk. Without (colder) weather I don’t see that changing anytime soon.”

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Information from: Star Tribune, http://www.startribune.com