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Brainerd area digs out of weekend's winter storm

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Brainerd lakes area residents had to dig out of the snow over the weekend winter storm and brave the Monday morning work commute.

The National Weather Service (NWS) in Duluth reported that 5.2 inches of snow fell in Brainerd, with 6.2 inches falling seven miles northwest of Brainerd. So far this winter, Brainerd has seen 8.8 inches of snowfall. Much more compared with last year at this time, when Brainerd had only 1.9 inches of snow as of Dec. 10, 2011.

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In the lakes area, Aitkin had the most snow reported at 8.1 inches and three miles northeast of Nisswa and Leader seen the least with 4 inches of snow over the weekend. The NWS reported that Isanti County had the highest amount of snowfall in the state at 16.5 inches.

Carol Christenson, NWS meteorologist in Duluth, said that the clearing skies Monday caused temperatures to plummet in the lakes area, but the sun helped warm things up later in the day. Monday’s high was 12 degrees, with a low of 5 degrees.

Christenson said the weekend’s winter storm evolved in the Rockies and moved across the Central Plains. The low pressure system exited South Dakota and tracked across southern Minnesota Sunday. Christenson said Minnesota was the prime area of the snow, hitting the entire state. In the beginning of the storm, Christenson said it appeared that the storm was going to be heavier in the Alexandria area, but the area from the Twin Cities metro area through the Brainerd lakes area seen the heavier snowfall.

The NWS said totals in excess of one foot were found over portions of central Minnesota into west central Wisconsin.

Snow-plow drivers welcomed the sunshine Monday as it helped clear the roads.

“The sun came out and made a world of difference,” said Tom Wryk, Minnesota Department of Transportation superintendent of the northern half of District 3, of clearing the state highways. “We’ve been running two 12-hour shifts nonstop since 2 a.m. Sunday.”

Wryk said roads Monday morning were in fair to poor conditions, but by noon roads improved from fair to good conditions.

MnDOT had 47 trucks out in the northern half of District 3 that spans from Rice north to Hackensack to Wadena to the Hill City area. Wryk said in this area, crews have 1,950 miles of lanes to plow.

Wyrk said by sundown Monday all the highways will be plowed. MnDOT will work Tuesday on the turn lanes and the crossovers, directions of a divided highway.

Wryk advises motorists to use caution when driving near the snow plows.

“Please don’t overcrowd the plows,” Wryk said. “MnDOT’s slogan is ‘Stay Back, Stay Alive.’

“Motorists can legally pass a snow plow, but we ask you to be very careful and be on your best behavior. It may look good to pass, but if there is an unexpected snow cloud, it will lower your visibility.”

Brainerd City Engineer Jeff Hulsether said Brainerd crews made good progress Monday cleaning up the roads. Hulsether said crews spent four hours Sunday and began at 5 a.m. Monday before traffic got heavy.

Hulsether said the city will not be declaring any snow emergencies and were not anticipating ticketing or towing any vehicles Monday night in the downtown area, as the clean-up was already completed.

In Crow Wing County, Timothy Bray, county engineer, said crews were out from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday and out again at 3 a.m. Monday. Bray said the county has 17 plow routes that consist of more than 600 miles of county roads.

“We can’t be out there 24-7, but we’re doing fantastic,” said Bray. “We always continue to improve the process every year.”

The snow plows will get a break as the snow storm is done. The NWS predicts a slight chance of snow Saturday, but Christenson said it is too soon to tell what Mother Nature will do.

Temperatures in Brainerd this week will get warmer, with the exception of Tuesday’s high of 16, with a west wind of 5-10 mph, with a low around 3 Tuesday night. Wednesday through Friday temperatures will increase to the upper 20s.

JENNIFER STOCKINGER may be reached at jennifer.stockinger@brainerddispatch.com or 855-5851. Follow me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jennewsgirl.

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