The arrival of the year’s first 70-degree day comes as AAA is bidding farewell to its busiest winter in three decades.
Numbers released last week by AAA Minneapolis showed that the motoring and travel club serving residents of Hennepin County and a few adjacent suburbs logged more than 50,000 calls for help between December and February, a 42 percent increase over the winter of 2012-13 and a single-season record.
Phones at AAA Minnesota-Iowa rang incessantly, too, with 110,000 calls during the same three-month period, said spokeswoman Gail Weinholzer. That was not a seasonal record, but the agency did have a single-day record for service calls on Jan. 7, when it received 3,000 calls. That smashed the previous record of 2,500 on Feb. 7, 2005.
With the “polar vortex” that settled over the Upper Midwest, battery-related difficulties were the No. 1 reason drivers called for help. They accounted for 36 percent of the calls, followed by 30 percent for tows and 10 percent for flat tires, said Jamie Christianson, a AAA Minneapolis spokeswoman.
Extrications accounted for another 10 percent, as did lockouts. Drivers who ran out of fuel came in at 1 percent, she said.
A winter in which the mercury fell below zero 50 times in the Twin Cities — and at one time for 17 consecutive days — gave AAA’s road service crews a chance to demonstrate “herculean efforts and hard work,” said Wendy Weigel, acting president and CEO of AAA Minneapolis.
Call volumes have dropped off in the past few weeks, said Jamie Christianson, AAA Minneapolis spokeswoman.
“You can tell the air seems lighter around here,” she said. “There is a collective sigh of relief.”