Listen Arctic blast follows major winter storm
Dec 5, 2013
Listen Dan Kraker reports on the storm in northeast Minnesota
Astrid Levy and Amelia Wise are a blur of brightly colored snow pants and jackets as their moms spin them on a merry-go-round at Chester Park in Duluth, snowflakes swirling around them. Schools were cancelled across the region Wednesday. Standing in her cross country skis as she pushes her daughter, Louise Levy said it was a fun-filled snow day.
"Shoveling, eating fudge, a lot of fudge eating. Oh Astrid, who did you write a letter to today? Santa!" she said.
Even Santa would have had a tough time navigating the storm. At least an inch of snow per hour pummeled Duluth all afternoon long, with 35 mile per hour wind gusts driving the snow sideways. About 1,300 homes lost power, including the Spirit Mountain ski area. The city warned of falling ice chunks from the Aerial Lift Bridge. Schools, colleges and offices were closed throughout the city. Busses stopped running up Duluth's steep hillside after 5 p.m.
And all day long, people like Sarah Nelson dug out from under the wet, heavy snow.
"Pretty crazy, it's almost at two feet already," she said.
Nelson struggled to clear the snow around her car. She coaches gymnastics at the Duluth YMCA, but like many workplaces, the Y was closed because of the storm. Nelson has lived in Duluth about five years but has never seen a blizzard like this.
"Last spring was pretty crazy but not like this at all, a lot of snow really quick," she said.
That made it tough for the city's snow plows to keep up, said Kelly Fleissner, Duluth's Maintenance Operations Manager.
"It's just relentless snow, so you just have to keep going back over the same areas, what happens is some of the residential streets, the alleys, we never get to, because we keep trying to deal with the main thoroughfares, so we understand the frustration people have and how restricted many people are because of the amount of snow we're unable to get to right now," said Fleissner.
Fleissner's crews have worked 16-hour shifts to try to keep at least the main roads passable. And the Minnesota Department of Transportation has deployed about 100 plows across the Arrowhead region. Fleissner said he was encouraged driving into work yesterday when he saw a lot fewer vehicles on the streets. That translates to fewer accidents. Duluth police have responded to 64 crashes since the storm began three days ago, but only about five yesterday.
Fleissner said residents clearly got the message to only leave home if absolutely necessary.
Duluth residents Amanda Meyer and Ian Erickson left home -- but on cross country skis. The couple couldn't be happier about the snow. They're even planning to go surfing on Lake Superior, on waves forecast to reach seven to nine feet tall.
But except for extreme diehards, the window to play in the snow may be pretty short. A blast of arctic air is following closely behind the snow, with temperatures forecast to reach the teens below zero on Friday and Saturday. That will turn the snow as hard as concrete.
Here are the top 20 snowfall totals from around Minnesota, measured in inches, compiled from the University of Iowa Mesonet:
• Two Harbors: 33
• Lester Park Duluth: 24.5
• NE Lutsen: 22.5
• Askov: 21.7
• Moose Lake: 17
• E Grand Rapids: 14
• Brainerd: 12.3
• Bemidji: 12
• Fort Ripley: 11
• Warroad: 9
• Ramsey: 7.5
• Waconia: 6.9
• Wadena: 6.1
• Isanti: 6
• St. Cloud Airport: 5
• N Moorhead: 4.6
• MSP Airport: 4.1
• Oakdale: 4
• Willmar: 3.5
MPR reporter Tim Nelson constributed to this story