County urges drivers to take care on icy roads
First, it rained. Then, it snowed in the area Saturday night. That was followed by another light coating of snow Sunday.
Where were many of the county residents?
Too many were on the roads Saturday night and Sunday, according to the Dakota County officials.
Dakota County Sheriff's Capt. Steve Theriault urges residents to stay home when the weather is bad, but many ventured out last weekend
"The roads were terrible in a few areas," Theriault said. "It was the weekend and we figured people would look out their windows and stay home."
Well, they didn't.
"On Saturday evening we had quite a few cars in the ditch, and then Sunday, we must have had up to a dozen cars in the ditch," Theriault said. "I think the conditions were worse on Sunday."
There was a fatal one-vehicle accident reported Sunday on Highway 52 near 117th Street in Inver Grove Heights. According to the Minnesota State Patrol, the vehicle hit a patch of ice on the highway and left the roadway. A passenger in the vehicle died.
Theriault's patrol vehicles checked on more than 20 vehicles they saw in the ditch. There is a standard procedure for officers who come upon a car in the ditch.
"You make sure no one is injured," Theriault said. "Then, you check to make sure no public or private property has been damaged.
"About half the calls we had were about cars in the ditch," he said. "The other half (of more than 20) were found while on patrol."
When a patrol deputy checks on a car in the ditch, he or she will mark the car after checking on it. That lets other deputies know the car has been checked.
On the less-traveled roads, there is more difficulty for vehicles, Theriault said.
"You can only put down so much salt and sand, and then it is not going to help," he said. "You live in Minnesota and it is winter. We ask you use common sense."
There were 10 to 15 accidents reported Sunday, Theriault said. Most involved only minor injuries.
The cost to the driver(s) with cars in ditches or in accidents can be painful as well. Some drivers need to call someone to have their cars pulled from the ditches; others may face some costs for the repairs.
Sometimes checking on cars can create dangers for squads cars, too, Theriault said. There have been squad cars hit as drivers are traveling on icy or snow-packed roads.
And, if the driver is charged with a violation -- the most common violation is speeding -- there can be more costs, Theriault said.
"When you are not only putting yourself at risk, but others at risk, then it is time to stay put," Theriault said.