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Are you ready? Preparing for a cold, snowy winter ahead

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news Detroit Lakes, 56501
Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

We knew it was coming.

"We do expect this winter to provide below normal temperatures and above normal snow fall," said Climate Forecaster with the National Weather Service Mark Ewens.

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But Ewens says although the northern plains are expected to get an abundance of snow, the colder temperatures mean less precipitation in the snow, essentially making it fluffier.

Ewens says according to their records, Detroit Lakes has averaged 46 inches of snow over the past 30 years, however, he says this year is a La Nina year (just like last year when Detroit Lakes saw 65.1 inches of snow) which pushes their predictions up to over 60 inches once again.

"This is still considered in the normal range, though," said Ewens, "it's above average, but it's normal."

Not normal would be the five inches Detroit Lakes saw in 1957-58 or the 71 inches that dumped on the city in 2008-09.

Still, even a "normal" winter in Minnesota requires some preparations.

Public utilities

Folks at the Detroit Lakes Public Utilities say the No. 1 thing homeowners should do to prepare for Old Man Winter is to make sure furnaces are checked.

"Have them inspected and cleaned out by professionals," said Public Utilities Energy Services Specialist Becky Renner, "they will run more efficiently; the filters will be changed and the motors will all run better."

Pinpointing drafts in the house can also be a money-saver, as caulking, weather stripping, and insulating trap the heat.

"They make insulation for light switches and outlets, too," said DL Public Utilities Superintendent Kurt Punt, "those are hollow inside and tend to let a lot of cold air in."

Punt says if you're going to be leaving for more than a few, cold days, arrange for somebody to come and run some water while you're gone.

"We see that sometimes," said Punt, "the water pipes freeze up, so have somebody come in and flush some toilets or something."

Humidity in a house can also affect how the heat feels to the human body, so having a humidifier in the winter can maximize heat efficiency.

"You're going to feel warmer if your humidity level is at around 40 percent," said Punt, as Renner added, "you'll know you have too much humidity if you see condensation on your windows, which isn't good either because it'll rot your windows out."

Renner says wrapping your water heater can help save energy, along with programmable thermostats.

"We do offer rebates on the energy star thermostats, too, so we encourage everybody to check with us on products that will save you money," said Renner.

The Public Utilities office offers $25 rebates on certain thermostats and ceiling fans, as well as $200 for certain energy efficient furnaces.

Punt says saving money here can help residents during a time when the cost of energy, including electricity, has continued a slow climb up.

"Although this year we will not see an increase in electricity (rates) here in Detroit Lakes," said Punt, who also adds that smoke and carbon monoxide detectors should be checked.

Cars

Making sure old "Betsy" is humming nicely before the first snow is always a recommendation up north.

"Doing proper maintenance on your vehicle is going to give you your best buy for your buck," said Norseman Service Manager Dennis Derstine, "because towing can be expensive, not to mention the inconvenience because usually when things happen, it's at an inconvenient time."

Derstine says first thing is to make sure your anti-freeze is good for 40 below zero, the battery is in good working order and fluids are at their fullest level.

"Otherwise you might not have the proper heating for your vehicle," said Derstine, who adds that block heaters should be properly checked instead of just being plugged in, "because a lot of times it looks like they're working, but they're really not."

Derstine says another winter-must is a check of the tires.

"When your tires are bald, the first snow is sometimes wet and you'll have trouble getting anywhere," said Derstine, "Your handling isn't as good; your breaking isn't as good, and it could cause you to slip and slide into something."

Derstine says tires should be rotated every 8,000 to 10,000 miles and changed every 40,000 to 60,000 miles.

He also warns that over-inflation in tires can cause drivers to slide more easily because there isn't proper traction.

Derstine says to get a free maintenance inspection to avoid leaking hoses, bad spark plugs and the possibility of an overheated or blown engine.

"Because that's when the big bills come," said Derstine, "and usually that can be avoided."

School

People who have children in the school district know what it's like to see the snow fly and wonder if school will be late or cancelled.

To avoid any last-minute panic, school officials say to make arrangements for a "storm house" on those days incase getting off of work isn't a possibility.

"We do always work hard to make sure we're tracking storms, though," said Detroit Lakes School Superintendent Doug Froke, "so we'll usually have ample notice to get buses in and out so that the kids are home safe before the storm hits."

Froke says one big winter-prep to-do is make sure the school district has updated phone numbers for parents at the place they're most likely to be reached.

"They can get the instant alert messages as it relates to weather notification and schedule changes," said Froke, "so just double check in the skyward student system online and make sure the number we have in there is what you want tagged to our alert system.

Froke says as a reminder, when school is let out early or cancelled, all activities are also cancelled.

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