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Nicole Biagi wetted a line on a metro lake last Sunday and experienced a fleeting thing this winter in Minnesota: thick, clear ice.

If only that could be said more places.

"Even though we've had this cold snap, it's not back to business as usual," said Biagi on Tuesday, a rainy, leaden day that felt more like late March.

The weather will continue. From International Falls south to Albert Lea, temperatures in the high 30s to mid-40s are forecast for much of the state into the middle of next week.

Biagi is in the business of ice as the Department of Natural Resources ice safety coordinator, and ice has, over the last two winters, become no sure thing. With related deaths in Minnesota this winter higher than they've been in recent memory, perhaps there has never been more urgency around her position.

For certain, Biagi has been active. Her job, chiefly, is education, and even that's been challenged. While she has two February events planned, including outreach work with the St. Louis River Alliance for communities in the Duluth area, Biagi has had to postpone and reschedule events and educational videos traditionally staged atop good ice.

The coordinator also has had more conversations with her colleagues in conservation law enforcement to check on ice conditions from their posts across Minnesota. She has needed to make connections, too — in some cases, new ones — with county sheriffs' offices and park systems to work together to get the message out. A safety warning that might be more vital than ever going forward.

The DNR said Minnesota's warming winters and variable conditions, like ice, and 11 deaths over back-to-back winters in 2017 and '18 demanded finding money to create the coordinator job two years ago. The agency also was concerned for the safety of immigrant communities who don't have experience on ice, including places like retention ponds in residential neighborhoods, said Joe Albert, law enforcement division spokesperson.

"Now more than ever, it's important to have a specific ice safety program," he said.

Last winter set up poorly, too, Biagi recalled. There was too much snow in the icemaking months of November and December. Minnesota received the most snow in those months combined than it had since 2010. All the snow threw down an insulating layer that slowed the formation of good ice, and produced weak spots and uneven conditions like those common this season.

Biagi talked with the Star Tribune about her commitment to education, the attention on her role and the need for the public to take responsibility. Here are edited excerpts from an interview:

On the fluidity of her job

"There is no way for me to have a concrete schedule for next year because it is all dependent on how the ice forms. Before Thanksgiving we were to have a press release and a media event about thin ice, reminding parents to talk to their kids, but then there was no ice and that didn't happen."

On coming warmth

"I was out ice fishing last Sunday in the metro, but it is inconsistent everywhere. With 40 degrees and rain in the forecast, it is not looking good for the rest of this ice fishing season."

On the public keeping alert

"The ice still is thinner and weaker than normal, and there is a lot of inconsistency. People who are unfamiliar with the ice should go with a buddy who understands the ice. The cold followed by warming, we see pressure ridges, creating unexpected dangerous spots."

On her role ramping up

"This year has broken a lot of records for ice cover. The job is going to continue to be more important because there is more variability in ice coverage year to year. Last year, the issue was snow cover and caused ice safety issues."

On the stakes getting higher

"It's tough because people always want an answer. The questions we get the most are, how thick is the ice? Is the ice safe? We can't answer it. It is up to every individual to know the weight of their vehicle, the weight of their equipment, to understand how much ice is needed for support, and to check the ice for themselves. They need to be prepared for things to go wrong. No matter how cautious you are, there is always that chance."