Welcome to winter
Four-day storm piles up more than a foot of snow; the deep freeze to follow
Marshall Helmberger
M. Helmberger
A snowplow leads a parade of vehicles along Hwy. 169 on Wednesday. It was near the peak of a four-day snowstorm that buried the North Country.

REGIONAL—Snow was the story of the week across the North Country, as a slow-moving storm system dumped more than a foot of the white stuff on the area, marking an early start to the winter recreation season. Cold will be the weather story for the weekend, as the first major arctic outbreak of the season is forecast to send low temperatures into the minus 20-degree range, with highs struggling to top the zero mark. The cold is expected to linger throughout next week.

As for the snow, it came in waves, starting on Monday, and the it fell continuously right through Thursday morning, with the heaviest accumulations and wind combining to create near whiteout conditions on Wednesday. While the snow was still falling as the Timberjay went to press, the National Weather Service was calling for anywhere from 12-18 inches across northern St. Louis and Lake counties, with up to three feet in the higher terrain near Lake Superior.

Despite the snowfall, main roads remained passable throughout the week, as MnDOT snowplow crews worked 12-hour shifts around the clock. And the snow was light to moderate during most of the four-day storm, which allowed snowplows to keep up for the most part.

Even so, the State Patrol reported multiple spin-outs and vehicles in the ditch. “We had many accidents, but nothing serious so far,” said Lt. Ron Silcox on Wednesday. While many drivers slowed down, Silcox said too many drivers continued to ignore the difficult driving conditions. “They need to remember that it’s winter and they need to drive accordingly,” he said.

While the snow was expected to end sometime on Thursday, a chance of snow returns to the forecast Sunday night and Monday as the next trough of low pressure heads into the area. At this point, forecasters are hedging their bets on potential accumulations.

Winter recreation

The plentiful snow is great news for the area’s tourist-related businesses, as it sets the stage for cross-country skiers, snowshoers, and mushers. While it might seem a boon to snowmobilers as well, timing is a bit off, according to Joe Majerus, area trail specialist at the DNR’s Tower office. “The snow presents a problem for us because the swamps aren’t frozen down at this point,” he said. Trail crews that have been out in recent days clearing snowmobile routes report that even ATVs have been breaking through swamp ice in some spots. “We’re certainly not going to be out grooming anytime soon,” said Majerus, noting that trail groomers are far heavier than ATVs. Instead, DNR trail crews will be using snowmobiles to pack down the snow in the slow-to-freeze swamps, in order to reduce the insulation value of the snow and speed freeze-up.

“Even with the cold weather that’s forecast, unless the snow is packed, the cold won’t help us that much,” he said.

E-mail this
Print this
You must be logged in to post a comment. Click here to log in.