By Tina Snell, Staff Writer
In Morrison County, winter usually comes on slowly. A little snow and a little cold before January hits, then families hunker down at home to keep warm.
Not so this year. Winter hit strong and hard immediately. There was no slow introduction to the dangerously cold temperatures that stayed from the first week of December 2013 to Jan. 7.
According to Weather Warehouse, the coldest temperature reading in Little Falls was -27 degrees during December and the average minimum temperature was -3 degrees.
Karen Progreba of Always Available Towing in Lincoln said her crew has been going day and night since the Dec. 2, 2013, snowfall.
“We have been swamped. It has been our busiest December ever,” she said.
The calls coming in have been to help motorists with broken down cars, towing, vehicles in the ditch and lots of jump starts.
Always Available had five employees who are on-call and rotate their hours.
“Through December, three or four of them were needed most nights,” Progreba said.
Mike Cyrus of Cyrus Auto Parts in Motley said he’s been busier than ever.
“We have been jump starting vehicles and hauling many in to the shop to get warmed up,” he said. “There haven’t been a lot of accidents, but many breakdowns.”
Cyrus has had to replace starters and alternators and even several transmissions.
“I recommend always warming your vehicle up when it’s as cold as it’s been,” he said. “I warm mine up for 15 minutes and I only live 1/4 mile away from the shop. An owner is only looking for trouble if the car isn’t warm. The oil and the fluids are stiff and need to warm up to flow properly and do their job.”
Cyrus also said that good tires are a must. Aluminum wheels tend to go flat faster in the cold. Plus, the roads have been terrible this year and that’s hard on tires.
Trutwin’s Service and Repair in Little Falls said he’s seen about a 15 percent increase in business.
“I’ve replaced a lot of batteries and leaky hoses due to the cold,” said owner Tom Trutwin. “Plus cars just not starting.”
But, Trutwin said that 15 years ago, in the long-term cold people have just experienced, cars would have been lined up on the street, dead.
“Today, with fuel injection and better fluids, cars are easier to maintain,” he said.
Chad Compton from Shooter’s 24 hour Towing in Little Falls said this past month has been intense. As the only person employed by owner Scott Thomas, there have been some nights where he hasn’t gotten much sleep.
“There have been lots of breakdowns and vehicles needing a jump. There were even a couple of rolled cars during the Dec. 2 snow storm,” he said.
Manager of Communications Pat Rioux at St. Gabriel’s Hospital in Little Falls said that there have been no incidents of frostbitten toes or fingers during the past month.
“I expect people have been staying indoors during the cold temperatures,” he said.
Jasmine Ecker at the Minnesota Veterinary Association in Little Falls said they have seen animals with frostbitten ears and paws.
“It’s been mostly farm animals and strays,” she said. “The strays have been showing up at homes, looking for someplace warm.”
Ecker reminded people to keep their pets indoors during the frigid temperatures.
“Fix a place for the strays and farm animals to get out of the cold and wind,” she said. “Even a styrofoam cooler with hay will help to keep them safer.”