CAUTION: We’re stuck with this ice for a while
Until the snow and ice from Thursday’s and Friday’s winter storm can be cleared off roadways, area officials are asking motorists to slow down and drive with caution.
A problem, however, is that hard-packed ice and the cold weather are hampering plow crews and it appears roads could be slick for a while.
On Monday, Baxter Police Chief Jim Exsted and Brainerd Police Chief Corky McQuiston released a joint statement urging motorists to use extreme caution while traveling in the area the next few days.
Exsted said motorists should slow down, drive defensively, allow for extra time to reach destinations and look for alternate routes.
“The main thing right now is to just be aware that the roads are in poor condition,” Exsted said. “I know that sounds like an obvious statement but I think sometimes we forget. When we get three to four to five days removed from the storm we think roads will be good. This is a unique situation.
“Other than that, pray for sunshine and warm weather.”
In Baxter, ice buildup has been as much as 2 inches thick, Trevor Walter, Baxter public works director, said in an interview. Walter said sand and salt will not work in the cold conditions and even when temperatures do warm up it will take some time to remove the ice.
“It’s hard-packed ice and it adhered right to the bituminous,” Walter said. “It’s solid ice. There’s no way to scrape it off.”
Walter said Baxter crews plowed Friday morning but decided to leave snow on top of the ice on Saturday to allow for vehicles to get traction.
“It’s just too dangerous if you take it all off,” Walter said.
It’s the same quandary in Brainerd, said City Engineer Jeff Hulsether.
“The equipment just can’t cut it off,” Hulsether said in an interview. “The ice is frozen to the road and about the only way to get it off will be sunshine and by applying salt and sand to get it off.”
After Thursday’s rainfall, which was followed by snow Thursday night and Friday morning, Hulsether said traffic was compacting the snow and motorists didn’t appear to be having a difficult time getting around.
Hulsether said the decision was made to not plow New Year’s Eve because of the ice buildup that had already occurred.
“The snow does give some traction,” Hulsether said. “One concern we had Friday was if we cut the snow off we’d be left with icy conditions on street surfaces. We’d basically be turning streets into skating rinks. A little bit of compacted snow on top does help with traction a little bit.”
Tim Bray, Crow Wing County highway engineer, said county roads continue to be very icy.
Bray said county crews were plowing and sanding all 17 routes at 1:30 a.m. Thursday following a fatal crash on Crow Wing County Road 3. The crews worked a 12-hour shift and then went home to rest.
“W,e unfortunately, have one crew work one shift work with 17 plow routes. When no one is there it gets ugly,” Bray said. “Unfortunately, that’s what happened. They were in a rest cycle when the storm came up, when the roads froze up. It’s a timing issue, but we had to be out there (following the fatal crash).”
Bray said crews were out each day this past holiday weekend trying to remove snow and ice, but with low temperatures ice-removing chemicals have been ineffective. Crews spent all day Monday using equipment to scrape the ice, and will continue to do so throughout the week, he said.
Bray reiterated Exsted’s advice.
“People have got to take time and realize what they’re driving on and drive the conditions,” Bray said. “We’ve done all we possibly can with the temperatures we’re dealing with. It’s really important for drivers to be aware of what they’re driving on.
With the ice sticking to roadways, Walter said it will take a few days with temperatures of 20 to 25 degrees or some bright sunshine to get it off. When that will be is anyone’s guess. The National Weather Service in Duluth’s forecast for Brainerd on Tuesday calls for partly sunny skies and high temps of 7 to 12 degrees, on Wednesday mostly cloudy with high temps 13 to 18 degrees, on Thursday mostly cloudy with high temps of 5 to 10 degrees and Friday mostly cloudy with high temps of 8 to 13 degrees.
“This stuff is going to be with us for a while,” Walter said.
Hulsether said while there’s plenty of sand and salt mix city crews are just about out of raw salt set aside for the 2010-2011 winter season, with about one truckload left.