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Visibility deteriorated significantly Monday afternoon as area schools sent students home early and canceled evening activities. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)

Icy blast covers Hubbard County

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Winter returned to Hubbard County over the weekend after a "spring rain" left an icy, dangerous mess for motorists and power crews.

"We had 33 power outages affecting 1024 people," said Itasca-Mantrap president Mike Monsrud. "Crews were out all weekend."

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Rains compounded the misery, he said. Linemen got soaking wet.

"We use man-lift trucks so we didn't need to have people climbing icy poles," Monsrud said. "It was wet and sloppy out there."

All of the outages except one were caused by heavily-iced tree branches falling across wires, he said, One was caused by a hapless squirrel that got into a transformer.

"The worst of it was west of Highway 71 in the Osage area where there's lots of trees," Monsrud said.

Power crews had restored all of the outages by Sunday night, he added.

Many rural Direct TV customers were without cable service when satellite dishes got clogged with ice and snow. If customers didn't want to get up on a ladder and clear their own dishes, a service call was their only option, said a customer service representative who identified herself as Donita.

"I was very impressed with how we came out of the weekend because Saturday was very nasty," said Hubbard County Sheriff Frank Homer.

Road deputies reported almost no traffic Saturday morning during the height of the iciest portion of the storm. There was one minor accident near Becida, Homer said, and reports of six vehicles stranded on County Road 39 waiting for a sanding truck.

Eight other reports came in when motorists who did venture out either slid into ditches of off roadways.

Homer said there were a couple medical assistance calls relating to falls, but said he didn't know if those were ice-related.

People mostly heeded weather warnings to stay home and indoors, he said.

Rural mail carriers went to the areas they could get into safely, said postmaster Denice Phillips-Kunze.

"We ask them to use their best judgment," she said. "They actually did excellent for the weather conditions. Once the snow came down there was more traction" on the roads.

Mail carriers generally don't travel down unplowed roads, Phillips-Kunza said.

And she urged residents to clear a path to their mailboxes, removing snow, ice and debris. If mailboxes are obstructed by cars, ice and snow, deliverers have been instructed not to leave mail in those unsafe locations, she said.

Blustery conditions and poor visibility moved into the region Monday as gusts of 35 mph whipped up falling snow. Park Rapids schools closed at 12:30 Monday afternoon.

Projected snowfall for the weekend didn't materialize because it was just too warm, said National Weather Service meteorologist Geoff Grochocinski.

"Most of it came as rain or sleet," he said.

But winter-like weather will return at least for this week, with daytime highs in the single digits and some below zero nighttime lows.

The Department of Transportation closed several highways in the northwest area of the state and urged no travel Monday.

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ssmit

Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers Hubbard County, courts and breaking news.

(218) 732-3364
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