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Snowmobilers were out in force over the weekend on groomed trails and highway ditches. This snowmobiler was enjoying the hills off County Road 4. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)

Holiday storm creates icy roads

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Despite the holiday snowfall producing some treacherous driving conditions, motorists in Hubbard County had no major accidents, Sheriff Frank Homer reported Monday.

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The department was called to several incidents where vehicles slid into the ditch but no major injuries were reported over the holiday weekend.

The heavy, wet snow turning to ice contributed to the mishaps, Homer said of vehicles caught in ruts or losing control of vehicles on the ice.

"People were driving to the conditions," he said of motorists attuned to winter, most speedometers registering "45 at the most.

"People were driving to what the highway allowed."

But the appreciable snowfall also limited the number of visitors arriving from outside the area, Homer noted. Many a Christmas dinner headed to the freezer, not the oven.

County snowplows were out in force, Public Works coordinator Dave Olsonawski said of his crew, working Thursday through Sunday. "It went smoothly," he said.

But the intermittent snowfall over the four-day period gave crewmembers no break in plowing the county's 1,044 lane miles of roads. Ten trucks were out as well as independent contractors.

"The boys did a great job," Olsonawski said. "They stayed on top of it."

The appreciable snowfall sent snowmobilers out in number with no reports of accidents or injuries.

Deputy Jarod Andersen and others will now be swapping cars for snowmobiles, a two-year, $8,200 grant allowing added patrol, Homer said.

Deputies will monitor ditches and trails in the Paul Bunyan and the Heartland, checking registration and licenses, equipment such as lights and watching for those driving under the influence. The .08 alcohol limit pertains to snowmobilers as well as motorists.

Snowmobiling DUIs were more prevalent in the 1970s and 80s, Homer said. Today, more families are heading out on trails, aware that "with today's powerful machines, alcohol should not play a part.

"I'm happy with the way it came out," Homer said of Christmas weekend. "You don't want to get the dreaded phone call," he said of a serious or fatal crash. "But we have one more to go. I'm hoping to expect it to be much the same."

Yuletide festivities led to no DUI bookings in Hubbard County. And New Year's Eve, once considered to be cause for inebriate celebration, "is not as it used to be," Homer said.

"In the mid '80s, people were out until 3 a.m. Now that traffic has tapered off. People drink more responsibly," which he credits to safe and sober messages in the media.

"Our main concern is youth," high school age through early 20s, "who may not have gotten the message."

Hubbard County deputies make a concerted effort to talk to this age group, to get the message out in locations where they tend to congregate, he said.

On the plus side, the department is seeing more designated drivers, he said, one of the group accepting responsibility for sober transportation.

"Enjoy New Year's Eve," he said. "But keep the highways safe. Make sure we make it into the new year."

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