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Weekend storm dumps 14-20 inches of snow on Becker County

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Detroit Lakes, 56501
Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

Christmas came early over the weekend -- at least for kids enjoying a day off from school today. School was canceled across the area.

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A storm dumped from 14 to 20 inches of snow across Becker County Saturday evening and Sunday, causing numerous accidents, stuck vehicles and cars in ditches.

KDLM Radio in Detroit Lakes reported 14 inches of snow at its weather station on North Tower Road, but the amount looked to be closer to 20 inches in the eastern part of the county, according to Dick Goodmanson, highway department maintenance technician and county safety director.

"There are some variable (snow depths) out there," he said. "The consensus is about 15 inches around Detroit Lakes. I live about 20 miles east -- it's close to 20 inches out there."

County snowplows worked 10-12 hours Sunday and started again at 4 a.m. Monday.

"We have just about all the primary roads open -- like 6, 29, 21, 34 -- the high-traffic roads -- they are busting open pretty easily and we're getting salt and sand down.

The county planned to start tackling its secondary roads starting about 10 a.m. or 11 a.m. today. They should all be open by the end of the day, Goodmanson said.

Township roads are plowed by contractors, so snow removal varies by township, but "there is pretty heavy snowpack in the townships," he said. "It's just about impassable."

Road conditions were still "very poor" Monday morning, with areas of packed snow and ice on highway, according to State Patrol Captain Richard Hentges.

Troopers had to be called in early in the Detroit Lakes, Moorhead and Fergus Falls districts.

In the Detroit Lakes district, 115 vehicles were reported off the roads and there were 32 accidents, including seven rollovers, four injuries, and six semi tractor-trailers that crashed -- three that rolled and three that jackknifed, Hentges said. Most crashes were on I-94 and Highway 10.

"They're still crashing this morning," he said Monday.

"Yesterday it went from bad to worse," he added. "It came down so fast and heavy the plows couldn't keep up with it."

That caused packed snow and icy road conditions, which led to crashes.

"You'd think by now people would be used to it, but they're not using common sense and they're driving too fast."

Detroit Lakes Schools Superintendent Doug Froke said school was canceled Monday to give snowbound residents a chance to recover.

"The sheer volume of snow was a concern for us, as far as people having to dig out -- we knew it could take time," he said. "Also, the moisture content of the snow was so high, we knew rural folks would need more time to dig out."

The snow that fell over the weekend "was definitely the biggest snow event of the year," Goodmanson said. "Actually, it's the most snow we've seen in one shot in many years."

The county has nine plows out and has independent contractors running another four plows, he said.

The wet, heavy snow comes off in big blocks and causes plows to use a lot more fuel than usual, Goodmanson said.

On the plus side, the salt/sand mixture laid down by county trucks works quite well in warm weather and takes ice off in about an hour. Then the plows will return to remove slush before temperatures drop below freezing overnight, he said.

When this much snow falls in April, you have to laugh or else you'd cry.

Goodmanson joked that he wanted to wish everybody a "merry Christmas," but he says the snow won't hang around very long.

"It will go as fast as it came, I think," he said. "By the end of the week it will be wrapping up."

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