There have been at least four incidents of animals, people or both falling through ice and needing rescue in Minnesota communities in recent days. In one case, a dog ran out onto a lake in Lino Lakes, broke through, and its owner ran after the dog and also fell in. In the Twin Cities, a horse fell through some ice.

The DNR has recommendations for “safe” ice thicknesses, which varies by the weight of the object on the ice. (Yutaka Seki/Flickr)

Lieutenant Adam Block of the Department of Natural Resources said ice this time of year just isn’t as sturdy. It needs to be twice as thick to support the same amount of weight it did in early winter. He explained, “When you’re in March, we’re dealing with old ice. It’s white, it’s cloudy, it’s not as strong, not nearly as strong. So, it’s breaking down, so that’s why you need to double the thickness of that type of ice.”

The DNR said when ice is newly formed, it’s safe to walk on at a thickness of four inches, and to drive a standard-sized car on ice that is eight to 12 inches thick. Block recommends checking ice thickness with an auger or similar instrument every 150 feet or so – and said if you don’t have a way of checking the ice, you shouldn’t be out on it.

Block said warm, rainy and windy weather in the forecast for some parts of the state makes ice even more treacherous because, “You get that water on top of the ice and the wind’s blowing that water back and forth, and it’s just like holding an ice cube under the kitchen faucet. It disappears fast.”

Block stated that it isn’t enough to stay off the ice. It’s also important to keep pets on a leash. “There’s a lot of geese sitting on ice right now, which would draw in a dog, potentially. And then if that dog falls through, the instinct of the human pet owner is to go out after them – and then they become the victim, too,” he said.

He added it is likely most of the ice on lakes and ponds will completely melt this month, so the best bet is to just stay onshore until next winter.