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Mother Nature isn't giving up: Snow pounds lakes area

A woman shovels a walkway Thursday, Feb. 7, in northeast Brainerd as heavy snow falls in central Minnesota. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch 1 / 4
A Minnesota Department of Transportation snowplow operator steps out of his truck Thursday, Feb. 7, on Highway 371 South in Baxter. With 9.5 inches of fresh snow accumulated throughout the morning and afternoon in the Brainerd area, roads were snowpacked and slippery. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch 2 / 4
With fresh snow falling, Lowell Elementary School second-graders reach for the football during recess Thursday, Feb. 7, in the school playground. Brainerd and Baxter received 9.5 inches of snow as of Thursday afternoon from the snowstorm. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch 3 / 4
Lowell Elementary School second-graders line up for playground football Thursday, Feb. 7, in the 9.5 inches of fresh snow that fell in the Brainerd area. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch 4 / 4

Oops, Mother Nature did it again.

Just as Brainerd lakes area residents shoveled out their driveways and sidewalks and began feeling some relief from subzero temperatures—residents will now have to get back into winter survival mode.

It was all about the snow Thursday, Feb. 7, as it snowed steadily through the morning to about 3 p.m. when it began to taper off. According to the National Weather Service in Duluth, between 7-11 inches of snow fell in the region—with Brainerd and Baxter each seeing 9.5 inches. Five of the 9.5 inches fell from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Brainerd area, according to an observer at the Brainerd water plant. The snow started falling before 5 p.m. Wednesday. Records at the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport show the snow continued the rest of Wednesday night and into Thursday day morning and afternoon. Light snow continued to fall Thursday night with the winter storm warning expiring at 9 p.m., when it was replaced by a wind chill warning, which extends until noon Friday.

Snow totals reported to the NWS Thursday afternoon included 9 inches near Motley and Pine River and 6.8 inches reported at 5 p.m. Thursday, 3 miles north of Brainerd. Thursday morning reports included 8 inches in Fort Ripley; 6 inches north of Walker; 8 inches near Federal Dam and 5.7 inches near Crosslake and East Gull Lake.

The National Weather Service noted total snowfall amounts were expected to range from 6 to 10 inches in areas in the winter storm warning, to 2 to 5 inches in the winter weather advisory

and blizzard warning areas.

The weather service had Crow Wing, Aitkin, Cass, Wadena and Mille Lacs counties all in a winter storm warning until 9 p.m. Thursday. Todd and Morrison counties were in a winter weather advisory until midnight Thursday. The wind chill warning for Morrison County and Little Falls noted dangerous cold with wind chill values as low as 40 below expected. Blizzard conditions continued in west central, southwest and south central parts of the state through midnight Thursday.

People should expect slippery roads, and patchy, blowing snow could significantly reduce visibility.

"Travel will be tricky," NWS meteorologist Steve Gohde said. "We will be bringing in some windy conditions as the north winds usher in much colder temperatures, so a piece of the story right now is we're going to be dropping our temperatures down Friday and Saturday. Temperatures are already turning colder."

Brainerd may see wind chill values between 25-35 below zero Thursday night and wake up to a blustery Friday with a high of 2 below and a low of 22 below. Wind gusts Friday could be as high as 20 mph.

"The winds will be blowing and drifting snow so it will be a challenge to keep the roads clear," Gohde said. "It will get more slippery with the temperature drop."

Road conditions, snowplowing update

As the winter storm continued Thursday, the Minnesota Department of Transportation sent out a notice to advise no unnecessary travel in most central Minnesota counties due to low visibility, slippery roads and a large number of crashes. The advisory included Stearns, Todd, Morrison, Wright, Benton, Sherburne, Isanti, Kanabec, Mille Lacs, Crow Wing, Wadena counties and surrounding areas.

"We're seeing dozens of cars in the ditch or involved in crashes this morning and early afternoon, including one crash where a snowplow was rear-ended near Pease," stated Domingo Aguilar, MnDOT maintenance operations superintendent, in a news release. "We're asking those who can delay travel to do so, and those who must travel to simply slow down, and work together to ensure emergency workers and everyone on the road get to their destination safely."

Most roads in central Minnesota are covered with snow and compacted snow, with areas of ice. High rates of snowfall and low visibility are expected to continue through this afternoon, with low visibility and blowing and drifting snow continuing into Friday morning.

MnDOT has no intention of pulling snowplows from state highways during the snow event, a department spokesman said.

For real-time travel information anywhere in Minnesota, visit www.511mn.org.

The city of Brainerd early Thursday declared a snow emergency effective Friday.

"It is anticipated to snow (Thursday) all day, so plows will continue to work on snow emergency routes and other significant thoroughfares within the city," City Engineer Paul Sandy stated in a news release. "City staff will plow the entire city Friday with cleanup on east-west streets commencing on Saturday along with snow removal in the downtown business district."

Snow plowing will begin 5 a.m. Friday on the following streets:

• All snow emergency routes.

• All north—south streets or streets generally running north-south.

Snow plowing will commence 7 a.m. Saturday on the following streets:

• Cleanup on east-west streets and snow hauling in downtown district.

The city stated if a person parks their vehicle Friday on an east-west street it will be plowed around. Vehicles parked on snow emergency routes will be issued a $25 ticket and will be towed at the owner's expense.

Parking is banned starting Friday on city streets the day they are scheduled to be plowed until they have been plowed from curb to curb. Vehicles not moved within 48 hours of being plowed around will be towed.

Visit www.ci.brainerd.mn.us/182/Snow-Emergencies to see maps for parking restrictions when a snow emergency is declared.

In the downtown business district, snow removal will begin 3 a.m. Friday. Parking will be banned on the following streets:

• Front Street from South Sixth Street to South Eighth Street.

• Laurel Street from South Sixth Street to South Eighth Street.

• South Seventh Street from Maple Street to Front Street.

Minor cleanup downtown was expected to be performed Thursday. The rest of the snow will be removed and hauled Friday morning. Parking is banned on streets until they have been plowed in their entirety. All vehicles parked will be ticketed and towed at the owners' expense.

How much snow does Brainerd have?

According to the NWS, Brainerd has had 36.7 inches of snowfall this season—not counting the recent snow. This compares to last year's total of 27.6 inches of snow.

Gohde said there is a 20-year gap in Brainerd snowfall records at the NWS covering the years from 1998 to 2017. From the snowfall records the weather service does have for Brainerd—which cover the span from 1949 to 1998 along with 2018, the Brainerd area has seen about 40 inches of snow during a season seven times.

And the snow is not done, so hang on to the shovels.

"There is another storm coming next week," Gohde said. "It's pretty far out yet, but we could get another round Tuesday, comparable to this one. This system is still out in the Pacific right now. We could get about 4-10 inches."

Snow impact Thursday

The snowstorm made traffic difficult with poor road conditions and low visibility. The Crow Wing and Cass County sheriff departments both reported lots of vehicles in the ditch, but no serious injury crashes.

"The tow companies were backed up for a couple of hours," Crow Wing County Sheriff Scott Goddard said, so some people had to wait in their vehicles or have someone pick them up until their vehicle could be pulled out. Goddard said when deputies were called to property damage incidents, "Our response time is only as quick as the weather will allow us to be."

Statewide, the Minnesota State Patrol reported on Twitter that from 5 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Thursday it responded to 413 crashes—32 with injuries—494 vehicles in the ditch and 18 jackknifed semitrailers off the road or blocking the road.

Sgt. Neil Dickenson, Minnesota State Patrol northeast region public information officer, reminded motorists to turn their headlights and taillights on when visibility is low.

Looking back at the storm's impact in the Brainerd area from 7 p.m. Wednesday to 7 p.m. Thursday, Dickenson reported there were 43 vehicles off the road, 15 property damage crashes, four crashes with injuries and three rollovers.

The weather also made some schools and businesses close early. In the lakes area, Brainerd, Crosby and Pillager schools canceled after-school sports and activities. Schools in Aitkin, Isle, Onamia, Pine River and Walker closed early Thursday afternoon.

The Brainerd Public Library also closed early at 5:30 p.m. Thursday among other events, from guest speakers at Central Lakes College to play rehearsals to Cub Scout meetings.