TONKA BAY, Minn. -- It's an annual warning, but one the Hennepin County Sheriff says is extremely important, and urgent. "Even though we've had some extremely cold weather the last couple of weeks, many areas of the ice are still not thick enough for motorized vehicular traffic," he told reporters on the frozen shores of Lake Minnetonka.
Sheriff Rich Stanek says statistics from last year prove that the message needs to be repeated. His department responded to 25 incidents of vehicles or people through the ice last year, and 23 of those calls came from Lake Minnetonka, and 3 of those incidents were fatal.
Stanek talked to reporters with members of his special response team behind him. "They'll be out there to save you, but c'mon, we're asking you to use good sound personal judgment out there," he said.
"Hypothermia sets in pretty darn quick," the Sheriff added.
"It can be within 2 minutes. You know, 20% of all deaths happen in the first 2 minutes, it's actually called water shock, where your body just doesn't react to ice water," Sheriff's Department Special Deputy and Diver John Mihajlov said.
It is for that reason that deputies gave reporters so-called "gumby" suits, hooked em' up to a line, and let them walk into an open-water space of Lake Minnetonka. It was effective in giving us a sense of that feeling of being in water, surrounded by ice. It is impossible not to feel uneasy in that situation. What reporters could not understand is how much that feeling is amplified when wet clothes begin dragging victims down, pulling them further below the surface.
The point is the message needs to be heard again and again; 2 vehicles have already gone through the ice in this young season in Hennepin County. "We're simply saying look, everybody has to take responsibility for their own actions. Use good sound personal judgment and we'll be just fine, this is Minnesota," Stanek concluded.