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Snow causes poor road conditions, accidents in Bemidji area

Bemidji State University students trudge through the snow Tuesday morning on campus. (Maggi Stivers | Bemidji Pioneer)

BEMIDJI—A band of snow originating in eastern North Dakota dumped between 2 to 3 inches of snow on the Bemidji area Tuesday, causing poor visibility and slippery roads.

Meteorologist Amanda Lee with the National Weather Service said the NWS had not received official reports from Bemidji, but that their best estimate is that Bemidji received up to 3 inches of snow. According to spotter reports on the weather service's website, Beltrami County had 3 inches of new snow as of 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, while the Two Inlets area to the south reported 4.2 inches.

Beltrami County Emergency Management Director Chris Muller confirmed the NWS' report, saying Beltrami County received anywhere between 2 to 3 inches of snow.

Lee said Bemidji and areas slightly to the south saw the most snowfall in the state with the storm. Northwest wind speeds also increased to between 10 and 15 mph as the snow moved through the region.

Sgt. Jesse Grabow with the Minnesota State Patrol said the snowfall had caused three accidents in the state's northwest region by the time it began to taper off at about 11:30 a.m. Troopers responded to an additional 15 incidents in which vehicles slid off the roadway due to slippery conditions.

"Any time you start getting snow...and possibly ice on the roadways it can make travel very difficult," Grabow said. "Any time you're dealing with winter travel allow more time for travel, increase your following distance, pay attention."

The Minnesota Department of Transportation advised no unnecessary travel across 12 central Minnesota counties due to blowing snow, icy roads and limited visibility.

Counties across the lakes region are included in the advisory, including Aitkin, Cass, Crow Wing, Mille Lacs, Morrison, Todd and Wadena counties. Other counties in the advisory are Stearns, Benton, Sherburne,

TJ Melcher, a public affairs coordinator with the MNDOT office in Bemidji, said the light, fluffy snow makes it difficult to keep roads in good condition.

"As cars drive through the snow that falls even just behind the snowplow...it compacts, so it turns into this ice compaction," Melcher said. "The type of ice it turns into is very difficult to get off the roads without being able to use salt or sunlight, so when you have really cold weather too, it makes it difficult to clean those roads back up."

Salting the roads would be ineffective given the low temperatures, Melcher said. He encouraged drivers to stay off the roads, if possible.

"If you don't have to travel, then don't," Melcher said. "The less amount of traffic that is on the highway actually makes it easier to maintain because you don't have to worry about that compaction."

A post on Beltrami County Emergency Management's Facebook page encouraged drivers to slow down, use their headlights and drive with care. Because the snow is light and fluffy, the post said, it is not forcing drivers to reduce their speeds.

"The heaviest amount of snow hit right at the morning commute, so while there wasn't significant accumulation, it was inconvenient timing," Muller said via email.

No advisories or warnings were issued for Beltrami County, he said, however, the weather service issued a hazardous weather outlook for much of northwest Minnesota and a wind chill advisory until 1 p.m. Wednesday was issued to areas west of Bemidji, with wind chills as low as 40 below forecast in some areas.

Temperatures could drop to as low as 30 below overnight in the Bemidji area, and there's a 20 percent chance of snow on Wednesday, with a high near 0 degrees and wind chills as low as 25 below. No snow is forecast for Thursday or Friday but temperatures will remain near 0 or below, with dangerous wind chills possible, especially in the evening.

It should warm for the weekend, with a high temperature of 17 on Saturday and 24 on Sunday.

Grace Pastoor

Grace Pastoor covers crime, courts and social issues for the Bemidji Pioneer. Contact her at (218) 333-9796 or gpastoor@bemidjipioneer.com

(218) 333-9796
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