SPICER — This autumn’s early cold snap is putting a thin cover of ice on shallow lakes in the area ahead of schedule.

This year’s ice-on dates for shallow lakes appear to be about one week ahead of the average, according to Ethan Jenzen, area hydrologist with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in Spicer.

Ice covers Willmar and much of Foot Lake in Willmar.

“Definitely ahead of schedule,” said Jenzen when contacted by the West Central Tribune this week.

He said in terms of smaller water bodies, the area is at least a week ahead of schedule. Whether the larger lakes in the area will see an earlier ice-on date is still a question.

He cautioned that the ice on area lakes is thin — and unsafe. No ice is ever 100 percent safe, but the DNR recommends no foot traffic on ice until it is a minimum of four inches.

Records of ice-on dates are limited. Records of George Lake in Kandiyohi County show the earliest ice-on date occurred Nov. 13, 1995.

The earliest ice-on date for Green Lake is Nov. 20, 2014.

The early cold snap follows one of the wettest years on record. Precipitation totals for the open-water season from April to November are 110 to 150 percent above average in much of west central Minnesota, according to information from the DNR State Climatology Office. Statewide, the average precipitation in October was 4.10 inches, or 1.78 inches above normal, making October the ninth-wettest on record going back to 1895.

Jenzen is among those keeping an eye on high water levels in area rivers and lakes due to the wet year. With the ground saturated and wetlands brim full of water, he is concerned about the potential for spring flooding if the region receives a lot of snow this winter.