BEMIDJI – Local law enforcement and public safety officials are advising local residents to stay safe this winter.
During a press briefing Monday, officials from the Bemidji police and fire departments, the Beltrami County Sheriff’s Office, the Minnesota Department of Transportation, the National Weather Service and EMS personnel outlined Winter Hazard Awareness Week, which runs through Friday.
“We are used to having those kinds of conditions, or at least we think we are used to it,” said Greg Gust of the National Weather Service.
Each day of the week includes a theme pertaining to hazardous winter weather conditions.
Tuesday’s theme is outdoor winter safety. Thin ice is a common hazard, officials said. According to the Department of Natural Resources, 4 inches of newly-formed clear ice may support a person, while 8 to 12 inches may support small vehicles.
Wednesday’s theme is fire safety. Bemidji fire chief Dave Hoefer said some of the biggest concerns in the holiday season are Christmas trees, electrical wiring and kitchen fires. He advocated that homes have working smoke detectors and that residents check them often.
Hoefer also discussed the danger of carbon monoxide, the theme for Thursday. He said detection equipment, which he pointed out are not the same as smoke detectors, can be life-savers.
Officials from MnDOT and county engineer Bruce Hasbargen preached safe driving as ice starts to coat Minnesota roads and large snowplows take the streets. Hasbargen said 72 accidents involving snowplows were reported last year.
“Give them the room to do their job,” he said.
While last year provided much less snow than an average winter, Gust said this year should be a more typical year. The average annual snowfall over the past 30 years in the Fargo area is almost 50 inches, according to the NWS.
That snow could add a danger specific to the Bemidji area this year, as damaged trees from the July storm could potentially fall over, said Chris Muller, emergency management assistant director at the sheriff’s office.
He said if residents notice a tree that’s ready to fall on a power line, they should call the utility company.
“Your actions could prevent widespread power outages this winter,” he said.