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Weather stops search for missing snowmobiler

Washington County authorities say bad weather may prevent them from resuming the search for a snowmobiler who is believed to have driven his machine into open water on the St. Croix River.

"Based on the weather, I'm beginning to seriously doubt that we'll be able to get back out there," sheriff's Cmdr. Cheri Dexter said this morning.

The search for Timothy Michael Pease, of Lake St. Croix Beach, was suspended Sunday because of poor conditions, including the snowfall and the river current.

The continuing snowfall means search efforts are postponed indefinitely, "until we get some breaks in the weather," Dexter said.

But she also said crews will not be able to resume the search if the temperature drops and a spot of open water on the river freezes over.

Rescuers spent Friday night and Saturday trying to locate Pease, after his snowmobile went through the ice Friday evening near Windmill Arena in Afton. Divers, an airboat and sonar equipment were used.

Sheriff's deputies and an emergency dive team located the snowmobile in the river, but have not pulled it out. It was anchored in place, Dexter said.

The search area was about 25 to 30 acres.

Emergency crews from Minnesota and Wisconsin converged on the area after a caller reported at 6:35 p.m. Friday that a snowmobiler appeared to have sledded into open water in an area of the river between the Afton marina and the Troy Burne development in Wisconsin. The caller reported hearing someone calling for help, but then the voice fell silent.

Around 8 p.m. Friday, a Minnesota State Patrol helicopter pilot reported he could see a clear set of tracks where the snowmobiler went in at a "pretty high pace. He probably skipped on the water a little bit."

Rescuers recovered a snowmobile helmet, but no other signs of Pease.