Rain turned to snow and slush in the Brainerd area Monday afternoon, making roads treacherous for late afternoon commuters.
In Cass Lake, a pedestrian died early Monday afternoon when struck by a semi-truck while crossing an icy highway, the State Patrol in Brainerd reported. Other law enforcement agencies reported mostly property damage collisions Monday because of the road conditions.
About 3:30 p.m. - the same time rain turned into heavy snow - Brainerd resident Laura Villnow was driving northbound on Mill Avenue in Brainerd when she lost control of her minivan about 100 yards south of the bridge over the Mississippi River.
A flatbed truck unloaded a minivan that was pulled from a ditch Monday near the Mill Avenue bridge in northeast Brainerd. The driver lost control of the vehicle, which came to rest on the guard rail. Brainerd Dispatch/Nels Norquist
Villnow's minivan lodged itself on the bridge's safety rail, the vehicle's driver-side tires holding the minivan back from a possible icy plunge into the river.
Fortunately, Villnow wasn't injured and was able to get out of her vehicle.
"I was afraid I was either going to go into the river or the car was going to flip," Villnow said. "I was lucky."
The freezing rain, which started Sunday night, caused problems throughout much of central Minnesota. The State Patrol responded to 30 vehicle crashes Sunday caused by icy conditions. Law enforcement agencies from throughout the area also spent much of Monday afternoon responding to crashes and vehicles that had slid into ditches.
Brainerd State Patrol Capt. Mark Jonassen described Sunday's crashes as a "hodgepodge," with causes being everything from driving too fast to failing to yield to other motorists.
Winter weather driving tips
Slow down and stay behind snowplows.
Allow at least five car lengths between vehicles and snowplows.
Keep headlights on for visibility.
Keep a safe distance between vehicles.
Turn off cruise control.
Plan ahead; allow additional time to reach a destination.
Be aware of black ice conditions on surfaces such as bridge decks and entrance and exit ramps.
Be patient and keep focused on using safe winter driving skills.
Source: Minnesota Department of Transportation.
Jonassen said people are too confident when driving in slippery conditions, especially those with vehicles that have four-wheel drive. He said motorists driving in icy conditions should plan ahead, slow down and leave stopping distance between their vehicle and the vehicle which they are following. And as always, people should wear their seat belt, Jonassen said.
"Common sense is the rule of the day. If you don't have to go out, don't," Jonassen said. "If you do, drive according to the conditions."
Minnesota Department of Transportation and Crow Wing County Highway Department crews spent Monday plowing snow off roads and both agencies planned to be out in force early Tuesday.
"We're expecting slush and frozen conditions and we're going to start early in the morning with plowing and sanding as much as we can," said Duane Blanck, Crow Wing County highway engineer.
A winter weather advisory was in effect in Crow Wing County until 6 a.m. Tuesday, the National Weather Service reported, with between 3-5 inches of snow expected. Crow Wing County is expected to be just outside of the heaviest snowfall, said Kurt Mayer, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Duluth.
"Most of the snow will be to the west. In Brainerd it's going to be the wet stuff with freezing rain mixed in," Mayer said.
MATT ERICKSON can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5857.
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