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A vacant home off Highway 71 in the northeast part of Hubbard County is surrounded by overland flood waters. Most of the bad spots and deep waters were in that section of the county, in the Guthrie and Benedict areas. Cool weather has slowed the runoff, but slowed repairs, too. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)

Thawing, snow, rain making a mess

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Park Rapids Enterprise
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Thawing, snow, rain making a mess
Park Rapids Minnesota PO Box 111 56470

Mother Nature threw every curve ball in her repertoire at Hubbard County road crews this week.

She was pitching spitballs. Not nice.

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Freeze, thaw, refreeze - oh, and while you're at it, I'll send you some snow just for grins, to see if you were thinking about retiring the plows.

Crews worked at a fever pitch to clear culverts and drain snowmelt off county and township roads, just to have them flood all over once they reopened. Then Thursday, crews had to set aside the gravel that had frozen solid and plow snowy roads. Snow concealed watery areas, making travel dicey.

"It's been a challenge but I have to say it's not as bad as getting 7 inches of rain in July," said road maintenance foreman Herb McCormick. "Then we've got real troubles."

But McCormick admitted the rapidly changing weather was hampering quick repairs of washouts. Damaged roads were hard as bricks when temperatures dipped into the single digits; mud earlier in the week prevented crews from reaching some spots without equipment getting mired.

"We had plans to work all weekend if the weather will let us but it's not looking like it will," McCormick said.

As of Friday morning, these were the closed areas: County Road 114, County Road 94, County Road 36 and County Road 16. County Roads 37 and 44 closed, then reopened. Crews are keeping an eye on County Road 95 because water is running over it as well.

McCormick said township roads are in worse shape, mostly because many are low lying.

"The township road crews are doing what they can," he said. "Everybody's just sitting on this mess. None of the roads are in great shape."

Emergency authorities issued travel advisories for overland flooding. Rivers in the region have swelled, many culverts are overflowing and the situation may persist well into next week, authorities say.

McCormick was clearly frustrated at mid-week as calls of washed out areas poured in, much like the water itself.

"We've got such a mess out there I don't even know where to start," he said Wednesday.

County Road 114 had 5 feet of water washing across it and whitecaps kicked up with the winds. That water is slowly receding.

Roads in the northeastern section of Hubbard County were under as much as 3 feet of water, McCormick estimated.

County Road 36 was especially problematic, heaving under the pressure of too much water and ground that wouldn't thaw to absorb it.

"There's a hole in the blacktop, unless the mat fell in overnight; there's a big hole underneath the road on Highway 36," McCormick said.

He worries about invisible trouble spots, where water has washed over roads, but then frozen and is snow covered. Those hazards aren't immediately apparent to motorists, he said.

The Sebeka area was hard hit when the Red Eye River jumped its banks. Several homes on the riverfront were sandbagging; streets led into water and were blocked off, and the River View Apartments could never be accused of false advertising - roiling waters were at tenants' doorstep.

McCormick said when the weather cooperates "it'll take one, two bladings to get all the roads healed up."

He 's meanwhile hoping the region doesn't see an April like 2008, when nearly four feet of snow fell. But he doesn't dwell on that, because it was time to get sanders out. "We got some wind yesterday and we have some slippery spots out there," he said Friday morning. "You gotta be able to jump from one thing to another without getting bogged down.

"And don't panic."

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