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Weather causing crashes, heat, water problems

Officials urge people to drive with care


January 2, 2018

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

A driver prepares to haul away a pickup truck that was damaged in a crash Friday in Havre. Law enforcement and emergency responders are warning people to drive very carefully in the frigid weather and slippery driving conditions.

There's no question about it, winter weather causes crashes, the Havre Police Department chief said Friday.

Havre Chief of Police Gabe Matosich said the icy streets and cold led to a December pile-up of vehicle crashes, adding that includes the man who allegedly drove through the Budget Inn Motel sign early Thursday.

"They're all driving-conditions-related," he said.

The man, Ian Blaine McCarty, who was arrested on charges including aggravated driving under the influence, after his vehicle slid on ice, catapulting his vehicle into the sign where it was then wedged, Matosich said.

The weather appears to be taking a bit of a break from bitter winter conditions this week, with Weather Channel's forecast calling for highs of 25 today, 29 Wednesday and Thursday and relatively balmy highs of 36 Friday and Saturday. No snow is predicted in the next week.

The temperatures take a bit of a dip again next week, with a high of 20 predicted Monday and 6 degrees the forecast high Tuesday. Highs are expected to be in the teens later next week.

In addition to crashes in town, the weather has created some issues on local reservations as well.

Four emergency shelters were established in or near Fort Belknap Indian Reservation and officials have worked to help people who had problems with furnaces and water.

Bill Running Fisher, Fort Belknap Disaster and Emergency Services co-director, said furnaces were out in about 30 homes.

Wylynn Shambo, who managed the shelter in Hays, said Sunday that about 15 people had come to the shelter to warm up and get something to eat.

On Rocky Boy's Indian Researvation, the Chippewa Cree Tribe issued a warning Friday about driving conditions on the reservation, and Tribal Water Resources Director Dustin White said about six people called asking for help with frozen pipes, which White said department employees helped thaw out.

The driving problems were evident in Havre. The last week of 2017 concluded with a reported 12 crashes and the new year came crashing through with three reported incidents Monday, including a report that someone slid into a parked car on Fifth Street.

With 307 motor vehicle crashes reported - another eight were added after Matosich's interview Friday for 315 total - 2017 had seen more vehicle crashes than any of the last three years. There were 274 total crashes in 2016, and 268 in 2015, Matosich said.

The snow and ice also keep the Havre Fire Department busier than usual. Havre Fire Department Chief Mel Paulson said winter weather conditions resulted in an uptick in medical calls. In addition to the calls related to crashes, there are those resulting from falls on slippery sidewalks or anything slippery, for that matter. Winter also brings a rise in calls related to heating-appliance fires, Paulson said.

Havre Daily News/Pam Burke

A sun dog frames the afternoon sun in the bitter chill Sunday just east of Havre. Warmer weather is in the forecast this week with Weather Channel predicting highs of 36 Friday and Saturday.

The answer is time and carefulness. Both chiefs advise people to "take it slow" on the roads.

When going anywhere, it helps to leave earlier to prevent rushing, Matosich said. When traveling on the highway, drivers should allow at least five car lengths distances between vehicles and "several" while driving within the city, Matosich said.

"Buckle up, drive slow, take your time," Matosich said. "If you don't have to be out and about, stay in."

This year the snow took an uncharacteristically long time to settle in for the winter. But since it began dropping Dec.18, it has come down persistently - 18.6 inches so far, including a weekend snowstorm that brought about half of that Friday and Saturday with 9.2 inches. Temperatures bottomed out at 32 below zero Sunday, tying a 1911 and 1924 low record.


Alex Ross contributed to this report.


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