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Law enforcement vehicle hit Tuesday

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news Bemidji, 56619
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BEMIDJI -- A Beltrami County sheriff’s deputy escaped possible injury Tuesday when his squad car was rear-ended as he responded to an accident.

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In his report, Deputy Derek Jacobson said he had parked his 2009 Dodge Charger squad car on the west side of U.S. Highway 2 East, behind four or five civilian cars that had stopped for the rollover crash at about 5 p.m.  

Jacobson said he had turned all of his emergency lights on as well as his left blinker arrow to direct traffic away from the crash, which was in the westernmost side of the ditch.

Jacobson was walking toward the scene of the rollover when he heard the sound of screeching brakes behind him.

“At the same time (I) observed my patrol unit to have been hit from the rear,” he wrote in his report.

Jacobson kept walking toward the scene of the initial rollover. He found the crash victim, Max Hirt, 81, was not seriously injured.

Leaving Hirt in the hands of emergency medical technicians and firefighters, he turned his attention back to the vehicle that had hit his squad car, a 2001 Chevrolet Aveo sedan.

Both cars sustained heavy damage, and Jacobson’s squad had been pushed six feet as the Aveo collided it with it.

The driver of the Aveo, Michael Stangel, 65, and Hirt were both transported to the hospital by ambulance.

As the weather continues to make driving difficult, the Beltrami County Sheriff’s Office is reminding motorists to slow down, stay back and stay a lane away from emergency vehicles whenever possible.

Beryl Wernberg, director of emergency communications, in a email Wednesday asked drivers to adhere to the state’s Foss Move Over Law -- a law named in honor of Minnesota State Patrol Trooper Ted Foss, who died in 2000 when he was struck by a tractor-trailer during a traffic stop in Rochester -- which requires motorists to keep one full lane away from stopped emergency vehicles with their flashing lights activated whenever they are traveling on a road with two or more lanes.

“We would like to remind our citizens that winter driving conditions continue to be dangerous,” Wernberg wrote. “We are seeing horrific crashes, particularly on (U.S. Highway 2) just west of the Airport, as well as the Hwy 2 Bypass near Bemidji.”

She attributed crashes to drivers’ speed and impatience, especially between 4 and 7 p.m.

“We urge everyone to slow down, watch for other drivers, allow people to make their turns onto side roads and be aware of black ice conditions,” she wrote. “Particularly dangerous are the bridge decks. In addition, headlights should be turned on to alert other drivers to your presence.”

Driving was complicated Wednesday due to high winds, which also were responsible for a blizzard warning Wednesday morning.

U.S. Highway 2 between East Grand Forks and Crookston was temporarily closed Wednesday morning due to conditions. Even when it was reopened that afternoon, the Minnesota Department of Transportation advised motorists that high winds were limiting visibility and had the potential to create white-out conditions.

Additionally, MnDOT asked motorists to be patient while snowplow operators work to improve driving conditions and prepare for additional snowfall. The majority of snowplow crashes take place during “clean up” when motorists resume their normal speeds.

As for the rest of the week, the National Weather Service is forecasting some improvement.

Thursday, it is predicting a sunny day with a high near 0, though wind chills could drop temperatures to feel as low as 41 below. West northwest winds will be 6 to 13 mph, becoming southwest in the afternoon.

Thursday night will bring a 40 percent chance of snow after midnight, with a low around 3 below.

On Friday, snow is likely, mainly after noon. It will be cloudy, with a high near 29. West winds will be 13 to 16 mph, with gusts as high as 21 mph. Chance of precipitation is 60 percent.

Saturday, is expected to be mostly sunny, with a high near 4.

Sunday is expected to be partly sunny, with a slight chance of snow, with a high near 2.

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Pioneer staff reports
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