Rescue efforts were ongoing Monday on Lake of the Woods to reach several anglers stranded after blizzard conditions Sunday blocked ice roads plowed up to 20 miles or more out on the lake, the Northern Light Region newspaper in Baudette, Minn., reported on its Facebook page.
Resort workers, assisted by Lake of the Woods County Sheriff's Department deputies, have been working since Sunday morning to reach snowed-in anglers, the newspaper reported.
A spokesman for the Lake of the Woods County Sheriff's Department told the Herald on Monday afternoon he was the only person in the office and said the Northern Light Region had the most recent updates on its Facebook page.
"In fact, I'm going to have to hang up on you now," he said.
Lake of the Woods County Sheriff Gary Fish told the Northern Light Region on Monday afternoon that dozens, and possibly more, people remain stranded on the lake that plow trucks had not been able to reach.
Deep snow and slush, which forms from the weight of snow forcing water up through cracks in the ice, were making access difficult.
Fish also confirmed to the newspaper that four anglers missing and unaccounted for as of noon Monday had been found by midafternoon. Other anglers had been in touch with resorts or family members via cellphone, the Northern Light Region reported.
"It's a real mess," Fish told the newspaper, adding he'd flown over the lake in a helicopter brought in to help with search. "The good news is that we're seeing signs of life everywhere. People are out shoveling. No one is running out of the houses waving us down."
Fish also told the newspaper he knew of at least a few plow trucks that had become stuck in the drifted snow and slush on the lake and that rescue efforts likely would continue into Tuesday.
Joe Henry, executive director of Lake of the Woods Tourism, said it's difficult to account for anglers who pay to access the ice roads but use their own fish houses, whether luxury wheeled houses or portables, when they're not staying at resorts.
"On behalf of the resort community, safety is always a prime concern," Henry told the Herald. "That's what we focus on is safety first, whether it's early ice, mid(winter) ice or late (winter) ice. Oftentimes, we do encourage people to use resort roads and obviously watch the weather and make sure you have cellphone connectivity and take all the precautions necessary before venturing out."