SPRING IN MINNESOTA?
Welcome back, winter.
Four days into spring the Brainerd area was hit with its biggest snow storm of the season, with 10 inches recorded at 8 a.m. at the DNR field office in Brainerd.
For the 2010-2011 winter season Brainerd has received 59 inches of snow, DNR program forester Mark Mortensen said. The average at the end of March, he said, is 41 inches of snow.
“So we’re about a foot and-a-half above average and we’re not done with March,” Mortensen said.
The 10 inches of snow Tuesday night and Wednesday morning also represented the largest snowfall in one event this snow season, Mortensen said. The previous best was 7 inches during a storm Feb. 20-21.
The snowfall combined with strong winds of 20 mph, gusting up to 37 mph, slowed traffic and forced the cancellation of several area schools, church events and Tuesday night and Wednesday morning flights out of the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport.
The Brainerd Post Office reported carriers delivered on plowed roads only Wednesday morning, and Postmaster Mike Rawlings reported one carrier was injured in a fall while delivering mail. Mail not delivered Wednesday would be delivered Thursday as long as paths to mailboxes were cleared.
Driving conditions on area roads also were listed as dangerous Wednesday morning.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation and the Brainerd Police Department issued separate travel advisories as roadways became hazardous because of ice, deep snow and blowing and drifting snow.
However, very few crashes were reported on area roadways. Most of the travel problems were from motorists getting stuck.
“It’s incredible out there,” Brainerd Deputy Chief Mike Bestul said early Wednesday afternoon. “This is terrible. Hopefully it’s gone by next week.”
Bestul said officers came upon numerous vehicles stuck on city streets, including one officer who in a half-hour helped seven people dislodge their vehicles from snow banks. Bestul noted even police squad cars, including four-wheel drive vehicles, were getting stuck on city streets.
However, there was only one weather-related crash, Bestul said.
“We were very fortunate with school being canceled, it cut down on that traffic,” Bestul said.
That same pattern — many vehicles stuck, very few crashes — was the theme on Crow Wing County roads, too, the sheriff’s department reported.
“People around here were very good with their driving,” Crow Wing County Sheriff Todd Dahl said. “I’m thinking they’re watching the weather and knowing most things would be closed. They were very patient as far as getting where need to be. People knew what was coming, which always helps, and once people are prepared they take caution and do what they’re supposed to do.”
Brainerd State Patrol Capt. Mark Jonassen said despite the bad road conditions there were very few crashes on area highways and no crashes that resulted in serious injuries. It helped, he said, that many businesses were closed and events canceled Wednesday morning.
Like Brainerd, the State Patrol responded to numerous stuck vehicles and vehicle in ditches, mostly caused by motorists unable to see the roadway in the strong winds, Jonassen said. On U.S. 169 vehicles were getting stuck in the driving lanes, Jonassen noted.
“We’re pretty happy that, so far, it’s turned out the way it has,” Jonassen said Wednesday afternoon. “We’re hoping people don’t get overconfident now that the snow has stopped and they think they can go faster before the roads are plowed.”
City, county and state snowplow crews were out in force Wednesday morning clearing roads, and by Wednesday afternoon most area highways were bare pavement with the help of a full dose of sunshine.
Jonassen said it could be a couple of days until all highways are cleared and the Brainerd street department said snowplowing would continue Thursday.
MATT ERICKSON may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5857.