Careful out there -- spring snowfall can make driving treacherous
The Becker County area got about 5 inches of wet, heavy snow Thursday night and Friday morning as another spring snowstorm moved across the region.
A lot of cars have gone off roadways in the county, largely because of driver inattention, said Sheriff Tim Gordon.
"There have been no injury accident as of yet this morning," he said about 9:30 a.m. today. "We've got a lot of cars in the ditch -- this heavy, wet stuff can suck you into the ditch if you get out of the tracks."
And motorists are sharing a single track on many township roads and will be until plows get out, Gordon said.
"Today I saw a gentleman in a pickup fighting the steering wheel -- and he's got a cell phone to his ear," Gordon said. People need to slow down and pay attention to their driving, he added.
On gravel roads, plow drivers also need to be careful not to damage the roadway, since the first several inches of frost has melted and roads are vulnerable this time of year. That can leave gravel roads sloppier than normal, even after they're plowed.
County plows are out clearing roads but it's slow going because of the weight of the snow, Gordon said.
"The county is knocking it down, but it's heavy and wet underneath, there's lots of compacted ice."
With compacted snow and ice in places on the roadways, and melting during the day and freezing at night, motorists should be prepared for hazardous driving the next 36 hours, Gordon said.
There have been one or two emergency calls from people who over-exerted themselves clearing sidewalks or driveways, but the number is "not abnormally high," Gordon said. "We saw more last weekend."
The National Weather Service reported 5 inches of snow fell in the Detroit Lakes area Thursday evening and Friday morning. The county saw 14-20 inches last weekend.
In Detroit Lakes, street crews have been out plowing and hauling snow, although the process is slower than normal because of the weight of the snow, which has caused some equipment breakdowns, said Public Works Director Brad Green.
"We apologize to everybody," if the thick, chunky snow gets pushed onto sidewalks," he said. "We will get people out with Bobcats," to clear sidewalks when time allows.
During heavy snowfall, the city first clears emergency snow routes, than main streets, then side streets, and finally other areas like sidewalks, he said.
The city is using road graders to clear off gravel roads and alleys and is only doing one cut -- and leaving about an inch of snow at that -- in order to protect the roadway. "Otherwise, it takes the gravel off," Green said.
If it keeps snowing today and several inches build up, city plows will be out early Saturday morning, he said.
"It depends on how much snow we get and how sloppy it is," he said.
People have generally been understanding and appreciative of the city's snow removal efforts the past two weekends, especially on Sunday morning so people could get to church, he added.
The business district also gets special attention so people can move around downtown.
"It's been going well for us -- the guys do a really good job," Green said. People can call if they have issues or problems with city snow removal, he added. "We can't help them if they don't call."