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Clay deputies rescue stranded motorists who went to get milk

HAWLEY - Clay County sheriff's deputies and a snowplow operator had to rescue four people who got stuck on a county road during a trip to buy milk in Tuesday's blizzard.

Authorities received a call at 9:10 p.m. that four adults were stranded in a van stuck in a 4-foot-deep snowdrift on County Road 26 about three miles east of Hitterdal.

The four had gone to Detroit Lakes to get some milk, Clay County Lt. Steve Todd said. They were on their way home to Hawley and had to take some back roads because Highway 10 was closed.

"In talking to the driver, I found that they only had about an eighth to a quarter tank of gas left in their vehicle," Todd told WDAY Radio.

"They did not have any winter survival clothes - no snow pants, no boots, no hats, no gloves. They didn't have any food to hold them over for any period of time," he said. "And their cell phones were all dying on batteries, so it became fairly important for us to try to get over to them.'

A Clay County plow operator escorted deputies from Ulen to the stalled vehicle. Todd said it took crews nearly 2½ hours to complete the rescue.

"They were a little bit shaken up," he said. "They were concerned whether or not we were going to get to them. In the meantime, while they were waiting for us they had called a tow truck, which would never have even gotten close."

Todd called it a "pretty serious situation."

"(It's) fairly disturbing that people would go out after you folks in the media had put out so many advisories not to travel, and the conditions were just very dangerous out and they went out totally unprepared with little justification," he said.

Todd said the driver of the vehicle wasn't cited but could be getting a bill in the mail. Clay County has an ordinance that allows the county to recuperate costs involved in rescues when no travel advisories have been issued.

The county is looking at recouping the costs for several hours of labor for three deputies, one highway department worker and the cost of operating the plow, he said.

Todd said there's an ironic twist to the story: The milk they went to pick up in Detroit Lakes was also available a few blocks away from their Hawley residence at a convenience store that remained open during the storm.