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Welcome, winter

December 11, 2012
By Deb Gau and Steve Browne , Marshall Independent

MARSHALL - Winter arrived abruptly in southwest Minnesota over the weekend, bringing along low temperatures and 10-15 inches of snow. On Monday, the focus was on cleanup efforts along area streets and highways. Area officials said snowplow crews were ready to respond to the storm, but blizzard conditions over the weekend didn't make things easy.

"It was a tough storm,"said Jim Thomasson, Lyon County highway superintendent. But despite severe weather conditions, snow removal had gone well, he said.

Full crews were out clearing county roads until Sunday afternoon, when snow began blowing too hard for plow drivers to see. Road crews were back at work by 5 a.m. Monday morning, Thomasson said.

Article Photos

Photo by Per Peterson

Marshall’s city crew was out in full force early Monday morning. Here, snow that was plowed to the middle of Main Street was discarded into a dump truck. The trucks took turns getting filled with snow, then making round-trips to the dump site west of town.

By about midday on Monday, Thomasson said, all county roads were open. However, conditions were still icy. He said the highway department would be spreading sand on areas where it was needed, including hills, curves and intersections. Efforts to scrape off additional snow and ice with grading equipment would probably continue through today.

Icy conditions were also posing a challenge for state highway cleanup. MnDOT said Monday that cold temperatures were making it hard to remove compacted ice and snow.

"Chemicals are not effective when trying to fight ice in these cold temperatures," said Craig Gertsema, MnDOT maintenance superintendent. "Salt needs water in order to work, but it's too cold for it to begin the melting process.

"Salt works best when temperatures are above 15 degrees."

In the city of Marshall, snow removal crews were out over the weekend, stopped when it got to blizzard conditions and resumed clearing on Monday morning, said Glenn Olson, Marshall director of public works.

"It's not handled yet," Olson said Monday. "Everything should be plowed at least once by the end of Monday, if not wider."

Snow removal starts with plowing down the middle of the street to clear a path, then a follow-up to widen the way from curb to curb, Olson said. Streets are prioritized from main thoroughfares to commercial areas, downtown, and residential areas.

Snow removal crews were prepared well in advance, with plows attached, equipment maintained, and snow stockpile areas designated.

"It is December after all," Olson said.

At the county level, Thomasson said having snowplow routes based out of Cottonwood proved important. The county had moved into a new shared highway shop building in Cottonwood in late November - just in time, as it turned out.

"We had to make a couple of emergency runs out of Cottonwood, so it's good we were there," Thomasson said.

The county's former highway shop in Cottonwood was destroyed by a fire in February.

As cleanup efforts and winter weather conditions continue, Thomasson said it's important for area residents to drive carefully. Olson also said he wanted to remind people not to park in designated snow emergency routes, and to call Marshall Public Works if a city crew had missed the first pass down their street.



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