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Better late than never: Lake Mendota declared officially frozen
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Better late than never: Lake Mendota declared officially frozen

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The Wisconsin State Climatology Office declared Lake Mendota to be officially frozen Sunday.

Warm temperatures in December and early January caused ice to accumulate later than usual as the freeze date neared the latest on record for Mendota, according to the Clean Lakes Alliance. The latest freeze date on record for Lake Mendota is Jan. 30, 1932.

Adam Sodersten, communications director for the Clean Lakes Alliance, attributed the late freeze date to the changing climate in Wisconsin. The median freeze date is Dec. 20, but Lake Mendota has been freezing later in the past 20 years, he said.

But when Madison’s lakes finally do freeze, they become the city’s largest parks, and that is reason for celebration, Sodersten said.

Frozen Assets, the annual winter festival held on and near the lake, is scheduled to take place Feb. 8 at The Edgewater hotel. The celebration will offer curling, ice hockey, sleigh rides, hot chocolate and s’mores, among other family friendly events.

“It’s a fun day on the lake,” Sodersten said.

The annual Frozen Assets 5K, a walk-and-run that is one of only a few such events in North America held entirely on a lake, will make its way past an inflatable replica of the head, arm and torch of the Statue of Liberty erected for the Wisconsin Union Winter Carnival. The statue, which peeks out of the ice, made its debut in the 1970s and returned to Lake Mendota in 2010 and 2019.

For a lake to be officially declared frozen over, the State Climatology Office requires it to be frozen for 24 consecutive hours.

This year’s freeze date is two days later than last year, when Lake Mendota froze, thawed during a warm spell over the holidays, and froze again on Jan. 10, 2019.

The State Climatology Office lists Lake Monona as having froze on Dec. 16 and again on Sunday, and Lake Wingra as having froze on Nov. 12 and again on Dec. 11.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources will not designate any thickness of ice as safe, but generally a thickness of 4 inches can hold people, 6 to 8 inches can hold cars, and 12 or more inches can hold trucks.

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