Blizzard drops nearly a foot of snow on Becker County
A blizzard that swept through the area dropped 11 inches of snow on Detroit Lakes Sunday and early Monday, according to KDLM Radio, which maintains a weather station in Detroit Lakes.
Most people hunkered down and didn't try to travel during the storm, especially in the rural areas, according to Dick Goodmanson, Becker County Highway safety director.
"The traveling public was good to us yesterday," he said this morning. "They stayed home."
County snowplows were out Sunday until about 2:30 or 3 p.m., when they could no longer keep up with the snowfall. They went out again about 3 or 4 a.m. today, Goodmanson said.
Crews now are widening out the plowed areas, winging back the drifts so snow doesn't drift back in, and applying salt and sand, he said.
Usually with the first big snowfall of the year, there are people out in four-wheel drives "playing in it," Goodmanson said.
But not Sunday. "I was out for five hours yesterday (plowing) and I didn't see a whole lot of traffic. I think there were more (vehicles) stuck in town than we saw rurally."
The extremely cold temperatures that came with the storm convinced a lot of people to stay home, said Becker County Sheriff Tim Gordon.
"Subzero wind chills were really a concern," he said. "We had 35 to 40 below wind chills last night."
There were no major accidents and the department only had one incident that caused alarm -- a man took off after deputies were called to his residence for a domestic dispute.
He was missing for about two hours and the sheriff's department had activated a search out of concern for his safety, but he came back on his own accord "after he had cooled off," Gordon said. "That was a little bit nerve-wracking," he added.
The main traffic arteries are open and townships are opening up their roads "little by little," he said this morning.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation closed Highway 10 from Detroit Lakes to Moorhead on Sunday. It reopened at 8 a.m. today.
Crossing gates are lowered at Audubon, and a message board on Highway 10 West in Detroit Lakes alerts motorists heading west.
"That stretch from Audubon to Lake Park to Hawley is probably the most treacherous in our county," Gordon said. "There's nothing to stop that ground blizzard from going on."
It was one of the worst blizzards since the infamous winter of 1996-97, when the region was pounded with blizzard after blizzard -- and even those storms didn't usually come with the extreme cold temperatures the region saw on Sunday, Gordon said.
"That's a fair assessment," Rob Kupec, WDAY meteorologist, told The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead.
Kupec said blizzards since 1997 have been on the wimpy side.
"We haven't seen a blizzard with this much snow (since then)," he said.
Thankfully, the number of ambulance calls was lower than average over the weekend, said David Langworthy, director of St. Mary's Innovis EMS.
One patient had to be transferred to a Fargo hospital, and that ambulance was led there and back by a relay of state snowplows, he said.
"We really appreciated their help, we would not have been able to get there without them," he said. "We also appreciate that most people stayed home and off the roadways -- it makes a big difference for people that have to be out."
"A lot of cars were stuck in town," said Detroit Lakes Police Sgt. Tim Eggebraaten. "There were quite a few people that were driving. We ask that people don't go out unless it's an emergency -- there were a lot of small emergencies, people that had to visit friends or get to Central Market."
On the plus side, he said, there were no major auto accidents and no house fires, which are more likely to happen with extremely cold temperatures.
Snow removal in the city of Detroit Lakes is "going well for us," but cleanup is expected to last though the week because of the amount of snow, said Detroit Lakes Public Works Director Brad Green.
"We started at 2 this morning," he said. "We just did emergency routes during the storm."
Most city streets were expected to be plowed by noon today, and starting at 12:30 a.m. Tuesday, cleanup will begin in the downtown area, he said.
Snow is being dumped in the Old Pit area behind the Oak Hills Addition, and other areas, he said. "If it keeps snowing like this, we will need every available space to dump," he said.
He asked private plow operators to be careful not to leave ice ridges across public streets. ""They can't leave ridges in streets, they get icy and they're a traffic hazard -- they need to make sure they clean it up."
The county also reminds people not to plow or shovel snow onto highways. The offense is a misdemeanor that carries a possible $100 fine.
Green asked for the public's patience as snow is removed. Because of the amount of snow, it will take a few days longer than usual, he said. That holds true for parking lots, too, he said.
Residential sidewalks will be plowed as time allows.
"It's still people's responsibility to remove it, but we'll try to bust through if we can."
The city will first focus on cleanup around schools, medical facilities and the downtown area.
"Especially this time of year, we want people to be able to come to town to shop and enjoy it," he said.