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Duluth, northeastern Minnesota dig out from nearly 2 feet of snow

Dec 01, 2019 11:25AM ● By Editor
Drivers dig out vehicles from a parking lot along London Road on Duluth's east side on Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019.  Photo: Stacy Maher

By Andrew Krueger of Minnesota Public Radio News - December 1, 2019

Duluth and much of northeastern Minnesota continue to dig out from a mammoth winter storm that dropped more than 20 inches of snow in many areas.

The National Weather Service reported a storm total of 21.7 inches of snow at the Duluth airport as of noon Sunday — the ninth-greatest two-day snow total on record for the city.

Winds gusted in excess of 50 miles per hour late Saturday, causing some flooding near the Lake Superior shore; some streets in Canal Park remained closed due to flooding as of midday Sunday. 

Interstate 35 between Duluth and Cloquet was closed overnight but reopened to traffic late Sunday morning — though travel remained difficult.

Elsewhere in Minnesota, anywhere from a dusting to several inches of snow overnight and through the day Sunday caused difficult driving conditions, though conditions were improving as snow gradually tapered off across the state. Steady light snow was falling in parts of the Twin Cities and east-central Minnesota as of mid-afternoon.

Dale Miller contemplates how to attack a deep snowdrift
Dale Miller contemplates how to attack a deep snowdrift after opening the garage door at his home in the Piedmont neighborhood of Duluth on Sunday.  Photo: Karla Miller

Storm shuts down Duluth

All across the city, residents started chipping away at massive drifts and snow-clogged driveways. Some vehicles were buried in snowdrifts.

City officials in Duluth said it may not be until Monday that some residential streets are cleared, and the Duluth school district announced that classes are canceled for Monday.

"The City of Duluth continues to plow snow from main roads. Drivers will continue to plow main roads today and hope to begin plowing residential streets early tomorrow morning," the city reported in a noon update. "With that said, residents should plan on moving cars to abide by alternate-side parking."

City officials said a no-travel advisory remains in effect.

Vehicles are covered by snowdrifts at a hotel
Vehicles are covered by snowdrifts at a hotel along Central Entrance in Duluth on Sunday morning.  Photo: Steve Young-Burns

"The public is strongly encouraged to stay home or shelter in place so that plows can continue to clear streets, and public safety staff can respond to emergencies with having the least amount of obstacles in their way as possible," the city reported.

The Duluth Transit Authority announced early Sunday that it was canceling bus service for the day because of the poor road conditions.

Access to Park Point remained restricted to residents only as of noon Sunday. Duluth police officers were checking identification before allowing vehicles across the Aerial Lift Bridge; the restriction went into place late Saturday night as conditions deteriorated.

Drifts more than three feet high cover a driveway
Drifts more than three feet high cover a driveway in Duluth's Lakeside neighborhood on Sunday. Photo: Derek Montgomery for MPR News

A lakeshore flood warning was in effect for Duluth most of the weekend as strong east winds and high water levels on Lake Superior combined to create mammoth waves and a surge of water along the Duluth lakeshore and in the Duluth-Superior harbor. The waves caused some street flooding in Canal Park.

“Water has subsided on South Lake Avenue, Morse and Buchanan Street, and a portion of Canal Park Drive,” the city reported in an update on Sunday morning. “Street closures on Morse, Buchanan, and (the) end portion of Canal Park Drive will remain in effect until later today.”

Winds started turning to the northeast on Sunday, diminishing the threat of flooding.

There were some power outages in the Duluth area on Saturday night and Sunday, with Minnesota Power reporting about 1,250 customers without electricity as of 2:45 p.m. Sunday.

Traffic moves slowly along Interstate 35 near Proctor Minn
Traffic moves slowly along Interstate 35 near Proctor, Minn., on Sunday, after it reopened in the wake of a blizzard.  Photo: Minnesota Department of Transportation

To the west, the Minnesota Department of Transportation closed a stretch of Interstate 35 between Duluth and Cloquet overnight through late Sunday morning; traffic is moving again but driving conditions are difficult. 

In addition to the Duluth airport snow total, other totals include 23.5 inches in Duluth's Lester Park neighborhood and 22 inches in Gary-New Duluth.

Massive snowdrifts hang from the eaves of a building
Massive snowdrifts hang from the eaves of a building on the north side of Duluth, off Jean Duluth Road, on Sunday.  Photo: Matt Kearns

Outside of Duluth

The storm hit other communities in northeastern Minnesota hard, too. Mahtowa reported 19.9 inches of snow, with 19.5 inches at Cloquet and 18 inches at Saginaw.

The Cloquet Police Department posted a photo of vehicles stranded along Highway 33 in that city late Saturday.

Just outside Duluth, the Hermantown Police Department reported late Saturday that “multiple roads contain multiple stuck cars making some areas impassable and bottlenecking all traffic. … Tow trucks are busy and also stuck. (Two-hour) waits common.”

Vehicles are stranded along Highway 33 in Cloquet
Vehicles are stranded along Highway 33 in Cloquet as a winter storm strikes the region on Saturday night.  Courtesy Cloquet Police Department

To the west, the Aitkin County Sheriff’s Office reported Sunday morning that “travel in Aitkin County is not advised. Unplowed roads have 12 to 18 inches of snow. Plowed roads are filling back in quickly due to blowing snow. Stay where you are and give the crews time to clear the roads. If you have an emergency expect a significant delay.”

From 10 p.m. Friday to 9:30 p.m. Saturday, the State Patrol reported more than 300 crashes on Minnesota highways, and more than 500 vehicles spun out or in the ditch along with eight jackknifed semis.

Some good news: After Sunday, mostly dry and quiet weather is expected across Minnesota for the next several days.

To read the original article and see related storm stories, follow this link to the MPR website.

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