Over 100 people rescued from breakaway piece of ice on Minnesota lake

Ice-covered lakes are used for recreation during the winter. Many waterways are experiencing ice coverage that is below normal due to record warmth in December.

BEMIDJI, Minn. – Over 100 people in northern Minnesota were rescued after becoming stranded on a large piece of ice that was afloat on a lake near the town of Bemidji.

A public information officer with the Beltrami County Sheriff’s Office said the incident happened on Upper Red Lake, which is more than a three-hour drive from Duluth.

Typically, the lake is one of the premiere sites for ice fishing, but a warm start to winter has meant the top layer of ice is thinner than usual and more susceptible to winds.


Before emergency crews arrived, the sheriff's office said at least four anglers fell into the water as bystanders attempted to use a canoe to rescue those trapped on the sheet of ice.

Within a period of four hours, crews from at least a dozen local agencies and organizations helped pluck 122 individuals from the ice floe and get them to shore.

None of the individuals or rescuers involved in the operation were reported to have injuries.

The lake has been the site of numerous rescues in the past month, including 35 people who were pulled from an ice floe on Dec. 17.


Warm weather results in problematic ice

The problem with thin ice was not a surprise to the FOX Forecast Center, which warned earlier this month that extreme warmth would have dangerous side effects.

Dozens of rescues have taken place in the northern tier of the country as abnormally warm temperatures in December have prevented thick layers of ice from forming on lakes.

Outdoor experts advise people to never venture out on ice of unknown thickness.

At least 4 inches of ice is needed to support a human’s weight sufficiently, and at least eight inches is recommended before attempting to drive a small-sized vehicle on it.

Ice coverage tends to peak between mid-February and March as temperatures start to rebound into the spring.