HIBBING — The blizzard that pounded the Twin Ports and forced areas of Interstate 35 to shut down didn’t forget to dump snow on northland cities throughout rural Minnesota this weekend.
Between Saturday and Sunday, the Iron Range saw 8-11 inches of snowfall, Joshua Sandstrom, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Duluth, told the Hibbing Daily Tribune Monday afternoon. Chisholm received 9.5 inches of snow, Keewatin, 9.3, Britt, 11, and Babbitt, 8. While there was no official report recorded for Hibbing, the city’s Public Works Department estimated that approximately 6 inches fell over those two days.
John Sporer, superintendent of Public Works, told the HDT on Monday that local road crews waited for the bulk of the storm to pass before they began plowing at 3 a.m. on Sunday morning. “There was some drifting on Howard Street, so there was a little more snow than what we thought, but once we got there, we got it cleaned up pretty quick,” Sporer said.
Local crews worked a 14-hour shift and finished at about 5 p.m. Sunday. They were on the roads again starting at 3 a.m. Monday, concentrating their efforts around schools and parking lots used by students before widening their scope throughout the community.
The local snowfall presented the usual challenges, Sporer noted. Plows forced to navigate around cars parked on the street left windrows in their wake that city crews had to clean later after the cars were moved. Sporer expressed his gratitude for Hibbing Police officers who wrote parking tickets that he said helps their plowing efforts.
Hibbing Police Chief Steve Estey told the HDT in an email Monday that the snow storm did not yield an uptick in typical law enforcement action beyond parking violations.
“We do ticket for calendar parking year-round, but there is a heavier emphasis during the winter months to help the Public Works crew with snow plowing,” Estey wrote. “People are urged — especially in the winter — to follow the calendar parking laws, so plows and emergency vehicles can safely get down the roadways.”
The City of Hibbing’s ordinance called Alternate Parking states that unless otherwise posted, calendar parking is enforced throughout the city year-round. Motorists must park on the even numbered sides of the streets on days bearing an even calendar date, according to the ordinance. On odd numbered days, motorists must park on odd numbered sides of the street. The calendar date applies from 6 p.m. that night until 6 p.m. the following day. Tickets for violating calendar parking are $15 each, and though an unwelcome sight, are part of the city’s efforts to get the streets cleared in a timely fashion.
County commissioners respond to record-setting snow storm
As cities on the Iron Range continued their clean up efforts, residents in Duluth were still digging themselves out Monday morning after being hit with nearly 22 inches of snow over the weekend. The record-setting snow storm was reportedly the ninth largest snowfall over the course of two days.
Though the storm wreaked havoc on the Twin Ports, it’s impact paled in comparison to the nearly 33 inches dropped in Duluth on Halloween 1991. Even so, cars were abandoned on the sides of roads throughout the region. People snowshoed into work. Some thrill-seekers posted videos of themselves snowboarding down snow-covered streets.
In response, the St. Louis County Commission Board, responsible for more than 3,000 miles of highways and roads, is expected to approve the purchase of a dozen snow plow trucks costing about $1.6 million at a meeting set for Tuesday morning in Embarrass.
Snowy winter ahead
Though the snow was heavy at times on the Iron Range, Hibbing Public Utilities customers did not experience any power outages. “We got lucky,” said Dan Chase, manager of the utility electrical systems, adding that trouble can occur when heavy snow weighs down branches near lines. But that didn’t happen this time around.
Still, Sandstrom, the meteorologist, told the HDT that the current snow accumulations in Hibbing are “quite a bit above” what has been reported here in recent years: about 4 inches in 2018; traces of snow in 2017; 4 inches in 2016; about 8 inches in 2015; and about 5 inches in 2014.
Sandstrom referred to the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center, which is based in College Park, Md., to get a look at what Rangers can expect in the months ahead. Data shows that intermittent cold and warm snaps are expected for the northeast region, he said. And precipitation is expected to be above average, translating into the potential for more snowfall.
As for the immediate future, Sandstrom said “nothing significant” is headed this way in the next seven days. Perhaps light snow, if anything. But with the prediction for above average snowfall this winter, Sporer, of the city’s Public Works Department, had one piece of advice regarding locals and future snow storms: “If you can park off the street until the snow gets cleaned up, it’s better for everyone and then it doesn’t cause those windrows.”