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Freeze-up for Detroit Lake was right on schedule this year

Lake Detroit was completely frozen late on Saturday evening, Nov. 19. “It happens that Nov. 19 is the average date of all 112 years of available data since 1910,” lake observer Dick Hecock said in an email.

IceOutGraphic (2).jpg
Dot graph of Detroit Lake ice-on dates since 1993.
Contributed / Dick Hecock / Lake Detroiters
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DETROIT LAKES — Lake Detroit was completely frozen late on Saturday evening, Nov. 19, according to longtime lake observer Dick Hecock, who tracks ice-on and ice-off dates for Lake Detroit.

Little Detroit Lake was mostly frozen a few days earlier.

“It happens that Nov. 19 is the average date of all 112 years of available data since 1910,” Hecock said in an email. “However, this year’s date is about five days earlier than the average ice-up for the last 30 years – from 1993 to 2022.”

He points out that averages obscure the considerable variation in the data.

In four of the previous 10 years, the lake has frozen earlier than this year. The earliest freeze-up was on Nov. 11, 2019.

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In that same 10-year period, ice-in has occurred twice in December, in 2016 and 2017.

Detroit swimmers and boaters enjoyed 199 ice-free days in 2022. But because of the relatively late (May 3) ice-out, this year’s open water was two weeks shorter than the long-term average – and almost three weeks shorter than the average of the last 30 years.

For instance, the open water season was two months longer (256 days) in 2016.

The 30-year average of Detroit Lake’s ice-cover durations (144 days) would put ice-out on April 13 next year. “But don’t bet on it,” he said.

Speaking of thin ice, people should stay off the ice until it’s thick enough to safely support them.

ice thickness safety chart.jpg

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources urges people to stay off ice that is less than 2 inches thick, and recommends at least 4 inches of new clear ice for those who are ice fishing on foot.

It recommends 5 inches for snowmobiling, 8-12 inches for a car or small pickup, and 12-15 inches for a medium pickup truck.

Related Topics: DETROIT LAKESBECKER COUNTY
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