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Snowfall meant many area accidents

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Area police agencies reported numerous accidents after the winter storm that brought snow to the area Dec. 3-4.

Snowfall totals ranging from 7.5-14.3 inches blanketed the area following the storm, and the weather made for poor driving conditions. Pequot Lakes reported 7.5 inches, 10.5 inches fell in Crosslake, 11 inches three miles north of Brainerd, 12.5 inches three miles northeast of Nisswa, 13 in Pine River, 13 in Backus and 14.3 in Hackensack.

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From Dec. 4-8, the Nisswa Police Department reported six snow-related accidents. Crosslake and Breezy Point police each reported one accident related to icy roads. Lake Shore police reported a vehicle that slid off the road and hit a culvert.

The Minnesota State Patrol reported that the Brainerd district saw five property damage accidents Dec. 5 and seven property damage accidents, two injury crashes and at least nine vehicles off the road Dec. 6.

From midnight Dec. 3 to mid-morning Dec. 4, there were 175 crashes and 192 vehicles off the road statewide, according to the State Patrol

The State Patrol recommends several safe driving tips for driving in a winter storm: Avoid unnecessary travel if conditions are poor. Be sure to buckle up. Drive at safe speeds. Keep a safe stopping distance between vehicles.

If a vehicle begins skidding, the State Patrol recommends staying calm, easing your foot off the gas and turning the steering wheel in the direction you wish the vehicle to go.

Before hitting the road, clear snow and ice from vehicle windows, hood, headlights, brake lights and directional signals. Headlights must be turned on when it’s snowing or sleeting. They also state drivers should not use cruise control on snowy, icy or wet roads.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) asks that drivers “don’t crowd the plow” when plows are clearing roads and applying sand and salt. MnDOT encourages drivers to give plows room to work and to slow down when encountering the plows.

Information from MnDOT states that in the 2012-13 season there were 60 crashes statewide involving vehicles that hit plows. Statewide, MnDOT used 304,555 tons of salt and 44,327 tons of sand in that winter.

The salt melts snow and ice on the roads when surface temperatures are below freezing, but the colder it gets, the less effectiveness the salt has, MnDOT says.

The Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (HSEM) urges drivers to create a winter weather emergency kit for their vehicle in case they should become stranded.

The kit should include:

• A coffee can and small candles and matches to use to melt snow for drinking water.

• A brightly colored bandana or cloth to hang from the vehicle window to signal for help.

• Large plastic garbage bags to tie around feet to keep them warm and safety pins to secure the bags.

• A whistle to alert authorities.

• Snacks.

• A cell phone adapter to plug into a cigarette lighter.

• A flashlight and spare batteries.

• Extra hats, mittens, boots and blankets.

HSEM stated that stranded motorists should remain inside the vehicle and call 911 for help.

The State Patrol and HSEM stress that drivers should plan ahead and adjust their driving to the weather.

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