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Insight from WFPD: Spring melt requires caution

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opinion Fargo, 58102
West Fargo Pioneer
(701) 241-5487 customer support
Fargo North Dakota 101 5th Street North 58102

As the spring melt kicks into high gear, potentially dangerous conditions can rapidly develop. Ponded water held back by ice and snow dams or plugged drainage systems can suddenly be released, flooding property and roadways. Water in and around drainage structures can also raise quickly. The shift moving water has the potential to wash away road surfaces or undermine the road bed. The flow of water can mask the dangerous road condition below.

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Moving water can sweep away a person or vehicle. Water levels only a few inches deep can cause a person to fall. Water less than eighteen inches can cause a vehicle to float or loose traction with the road surface. With water temperatures just above freezing a person entering the water can quickly develop hypothermia. The person's ability to think and function becomes severely depressed and can result in drowning.

When traveling, be familiar with your area or stay only on well traveled roadways. Major roadways are typically better maintained and monitored for potential problems. If you encounter water across the road surface, turn around and find an alternate route. In some areas, road crews will allow a driver to traverse water over the roadway. Conditions are frequently monitored for safety and traffic speeds are greatly reduced.

In rural areas the spring conditions create several potential problems. Gravel and dirt surfaces become muddy and provide poor traction. The road bed may be soft causing a vehicle to pull to one side or become stuck. Ruts in the road surface may also develop. Driving too fast for the conditions can result in loss of control and the vehicle leaving the roadway.

Don't underestimate the power of flowing water. Reduce your speed and devote your attention to the roadway ahead. Allow yourself time to react to the unexpected. Be aware and be safe.

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