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Editorial: Embrace winter, but stay safe

If you needed a reminder of what season it is, Sunday and Monday did the trick.

The region’s first real cold snap moved through, with lows forecast in the single digits to below freezing, and coupled with the wind chill, you had actual temperatures in the 20 below range and colder in some areas. (Don’t worry, it should warm up by the weekend.)

Northern Minnesota is known for its bevy of outdoor activities, such as ice fishing, snowmobiling, skiing and snowboarding, to name a few. We look forward to upcoming outdoor community events but as with most things, it is safety first, and we all need to remember to take precautions to ensure a safe winter environment for ourselves and others.

First off, make sure to dress for the weather. Dress in layers. Make sure to wear a hat and gloves. These are not trivial recommendations; it can be a matter of life and death. When it gets as cold as 30 below, frostbite and hypothermia can set in quickly. We all were reminded of that fact in February when a 6-year-old Bemidji girl froze to death after becoming locked out of her apartment building.

There was another stark reminder last week about winter conditions. This time on the ice.

A 62-year-old Aitkin man died Wednesday after an all-terrain vehicle he was driving broke through the ice on Gun Lake in central Aitkin County. The ice was only about 1-inch thick in the area where he went through. It takes time for ice to form on lakes, rivers and ponds, and it can be inconsistent.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources just last week issued the following ice thickness recommendations:

n 4 inches for walking.

n 5 inches for a snowmobile or ATV.

n 8-12 inches for a car.

n 12-15 inches for a medium-sized truck.

Know the ice thickness for the body of water you are going to travel near or on. A total of three people died in the state last year from falling through the ice, the DNR said.

The winter season also is peak time for home fires. Extra stresses on a heating system, or using alternative sources such as space heaters and wood burning stoves, even candles, can contribute to an increase in fires. There’s also the influx of holiday decorating that can lead to fires, such as from a Christmas tree or other holiday lights. And then there’s cooking fires, which are the leading causes of fires all year long, but we all know that work in the kitchen can heat up during the holidays.

And we haven’t even mentioned winter driving ...

So, enjoy this cold snap, if that’s possible, and look forward to all that winter has to offer. Just remember to take some time to be safe.

FORUM NEWS SERVICE

Forum News Service

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