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A pile of snow, rising to the Ottertail "welcome" sign, tells an "unwelcoming" story about Minnesota weather.

Foot of snow falls, blows

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Perham, 56573
Perham Focus
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Perham Minnesota 222 2nd Avenue SE 56573

Just about everybody in the entire region took a day-and-a-half or so off--but that didn't mean life was easy.

Shoveling, snowblowing, pushing and plowing was on the agenda for most able-bodied souls, as the region dug out of the season's first blizzard.

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Some meteorologists are calling it the worst blizzard conditions since 1996-97. Most of the area reported between 10 to 12 inches of snow, but it was the 30-plus mile per hour winds that really made the Dec. 13-15 storm hellish.

For Perham, it was one of the worst city public works director Merle Meece has encountered since joining the city in the 1990's.

"I remember when we had two feet of snow--but we had no real wind with it," said Meece.

The city's six-man crew has been in high speed since Sunday.

"We worked a full shift on Sunday during the storm--although you probably couldn't tell by Monday morning," said Meece. With the wind, and more snow, blowing through the night, it was almost like the plowing had to start all over again.

Every school in the area was closed all day on Monday.

As the storm was building, the Perham High School wrestling team escaped Grand Forks--leaving a major tournament early, despite a scheduled title match against Thief River Falls.

Making the streets and roadways passable is only a skirmish in the war against winter. After the white stuff is piled, small mountain by mountain, what do you do with it?

"We have another week of just hauling the snow away," said Meece, who noted that most of the snow is trucked and dumped at the East Otter Tail County Fairgrounds.

City crews breathed a sigh of relief, no doubt, that the old road grader is being replaced by a new $160,000 rig--which should be in service in Perham by late January. The council approved the purchase less than two weeks before the storm.

The old grader limped through this first storm. "We did the minimum we could do with it," said Meece, noting that a mechanism failed that limited the ability to move the blade of the grader.

The blizzard came at about the right time for Perham--in terms of its snow removal budget.

After a heavy, late winter snowfall last April, the budget was getting slim, said Meece.

"We had a little money left in the 2008 snow removal budget, but I was hoping not to have to spend it," he said.

Fortunately, there wasn't a November storm, so the city should be able to stay within budget on snow removal--unless, of course, Mother Nature has a surprise in store for right around the holidays.

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