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Avoid a mound of trouble at newly landscaped intersection

Dear Answer Man, in the "Pulse on Health" column in the Post-Bulletin recently, Jeff Hansel mentioned the mounds of dirt being added at the four corners of U.S. 63 and U.S. 14 near Crossroads Shopping Center and how they could hinder drivers' vision of traffic. I already find these mounds interfering with my ability see merging traffic. What's the purpose and who do I contact to express concerns? — Road Warrior M.R.

Those little bumps in the landscape look like burial mounds, and my reader is correct, they do have an impact on what you can see at that intersection.

The purpose is purely aesthetic, says Paul Schauer, a project engineer with MnDOT in Rochester. The public had input on the rebuild of U.S. 14 from Broadway to Marion Road, and people wanted landscaping at that otherwise dismal intersection. So they got landscaping. "We mounded up some topsoil and put some plants in there," including rose bushes, reed grass and yarrow, says Paul.

"I won't argue that you can't see (some traffic) as well as you could before," he says. "We looked at the merge points to see if there's adequate time" and planned accordingly. "We tried to keep the larger plants away from the merge areas, but people are used to having an unlimited view," so it'll take some time for motorists to get accustomed to it, he says.

The landscaping for the entire "Beltline" project cost about $115,000, Paul says, paid for by the city, which also will maintain the trees and plantings. The work should be finished by next week.


In my humble opinion, as a guy who uses that intersection a lot, I can see how with tall grass or big piles of snow, visibility will be affected. It's a well-controlled intersection, though. I can think of more dangerous places where landscaping gets in the way, such as along Second Street Southwest, when you're on the southbound exit ramp from U.S. 52.


Dear Answer Man, what in the world is a "red flag" warning? It seems like every windy day this fall, the National Weather Service issued a "red flag" warning and I don't recall ever hearing that before.

It's relatively new to our area, though areas prone to forest and grass fires have used it for years. A red flag warning is as much for emergency responders — firefighters — as it is for the general public. It's issued by the National Weather Service to let area fire crews and emergency coordinators know that conditions are ripe for wildfires. Public officials then can order a ban on outdoor fires and other restrictions.

"The term has been used for years in the fire community," says James Silverstone, who works in the Eastern Area Coordination Center in Milwaukee, one of 11 such centers around the country that coordinates emergency incident response, and not just for fires. The term "has been used more often (in media) over the past five years or more," he says, though he's not sure exactly why.

My guess is, because it sounds cool.

What are the standards for issuing a red flag warning in our area? The warning means that there's a high fire danger with potential for quick spread of fire within 24 hours, and in our area that obviously has more to do with dry conditions from early spring to late fall. The criteria vary, apparently, but the calculations include estimated moisture content in area vegetation, the forecast high temp, and minimum relative humidity and the wind forecast.



MORE ON MAYO ELEMENTARY:Here's a note from Penny Ryno, who attended Mayo Elementary School in Edgewater, Md.:

"I enjoy reading your Answer Man articles in the Post-Bulletin and was pleased in reading your answer to the question recently regarding schools that have been named after the Mayo brothers. I attended second and third grade at Mayo School in Edgewater and two years ago, my sister and I revisited many of the areas where we had lived as children and found that the original four-room school has been replaced with a larger school. Since I have often wondered, I thank you for informing me that it was not named after the well-known Mayo brothers. How would I get along without the Answer Man??!!"

You'd do just fine, Penny — but you wouldn't be nearly as brilliant.

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