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Some roads were still ice-coated Wednesday, so motorists were urged to slow down. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)

Snow storms are costing the county

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BY Sarah smith

Hubbard County is on track to spend $200,000 more than last year on snowplowing expenses.

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And there was something about last winter’s balmy temperatures and dry conditions that’s making people very cranky this season.

People in the northland got used to those 70 degree days in March.

This is payback. Another 10 inches of snow, 12 in many spots, fell in Hubbard County over the weekend. Snowmobile clubs reported blissful riders and perfectly groomed trails.

Some residents reported something else.

Hubbard County will spend $550,000 on snow removal this season, said Highway Department accountant Rhonda Anstine. That’s for labor, equipment and salt/sand. A traditional season starts in October and runs through spring.

“This January through March has been a nasty one,” Anstine said. “Versus 2012 January through March. But January through March of 2011 we had a pretty heavy season, too.”

Last season the county spent $342,000.

But this winter is a fairly typical one.

Monday it was business as usual for county plows, even though they spent the weekend working. Fleets of trucks were out covering icy spots.

“They’re going good,” said road maintenance supervisor Herb McCormick. “We’re just fixing some more salt-sand today. This late in the year the weather takes care of it for you.”

Afternoon sun is so high in the sky it will melt snow, even at sub-freezing temperatures.

“I just took a call today about the heavy snow coming off the plows, which is causing the mailboxes to go down,” Anstine said. “It’s not us necessarily hitting the mailbox, it’s the heavy snow and there’s nothing you can do. You have to get up to a certain speed to get that snow removed from the road onto the shoulder.”

Complaints are part of the job.

“Not yet,” McCormick said of the weekend deluge. I haven’t heard anything today.

“You always get a few of them, that’s normal,” he added, referring to piles of heavy slush. “When you get that wet snow, it’s gonna happen.”

Over the weekend, a disgruntled resident prompted a call to authorities.

The sheriff’s blotter noted on Saturday:

“Herb reports that a party on Co. 86 came out and hit the plow truck with a shovel for pushing snow into his driveway and by the mailbox.”

McCormick downplayed the incident.

“A guy just worked up about it. The guy calmed down and he apologized,” McCormick reported.

“People are just getting frustrated with it,” he said of the snow. “It just keeps falling. It’s more like a normal winter. You just take it as it happens.”

Residents should check their mailbox posts for wear and tear. That’s causing some mailboxes to go down. All new mailboxes must be a “swing-away” design that yields under pressure.

Also Saturday, heavy snow may have been partially responsible for a lengthy power outage that stopped commerce in Park Rapids.

Cracked insulators on a power pole off Highway 34 fizzled, then blew when they were dampened by heavy snow.

All but the downtown was affected, said Minnesota Power lineman Tim Schwartz.

Walmart, L&M Fleet, convenience stores, motels and most businesses on the east side of Highway 34 were affected.

One more by-product of the heavy snow was crashes at intersections.

Motorists crept out behind mountains of piled snow, only to find a vehicle lurking behind.

No serious injuries were reported, although plenty of crashes were logged over the weekend.

And the extended forecast calls for intermittent snow.

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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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