Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Digging out during a Minnesota blizzard December 11, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 9:11 PM
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“IT DOESN’T EVEN look like I blew the snow,” he assesses.

And it doesn’t. After a full day of falling snow and wind-whipped snow, our driveway appears untouched by a snowblower. But my husband was out once already, around mid-morning, clearing ours and the neighbor’s driveways.

Now he’s struggling to even get out the back door. Snow has drifted into the backyard and onto the back stoop and blocked the door. He leans against the storm door and pushes his way outside, into a world of swirling flakes and strong, bitter wind.

Minutes later Randy returns to the house asking for the hair dryer. Ice has formed in the recoil mechanism of the snowblower, he says, and he needs to melt the ice.

I follow him into the garage with my camera, realizing that this use of a blow dryer might appear rather amusing to someone who doesn’t live in Minnesota. I’ll note here that a hair dryer also comes in handy for thawing frozen car doors.

I snap a few pictures until my husband tells me he needs to start the snowblower before the recoil mechanism freezes again. I get the hint.

Randy uses a hair dryer to thaw the frozen recoil mechanism on the snowblower. Melted snow from earlier today dripped into the mechanism causing the problem.

A close-up of Randy thawing the recoil mechanism with a hair dryer.

I step back into the house, grab a yard stick and measure the snow depth off the back stoop. It measures 16 inches.

So far this is turning out to be one heckuva blizzard.

Snow drifts piled around our van as snow piled onto our driveway.

Randy makes his first pass, for the second time today, down the driveway around 7 p.m.

Randy begins his second pass down the driveway. He blew snow for an hour and then stopped because he's running low on gas. He needs enough gas to blow out the driveway in the morning so he can buy more gas to blow more snow and more snow and more snow.

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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Hunkering down during a Minnesota blizzard

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 2:58 PM
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My neighbor across the street shovels snow Saturday morning.

WELL, WELL, for the second weekend in a row, southern Minnesota has been socked with snow. A foot last weekend. Another foot, maybe more, for parts this weekend.

But round two brings with it a stronger punch—strong winds and dropping temps that make conditions out there downright dangerous. Windchills tonight are expected to plummet to a bone-chilling 35 degrees below zero.

In Rice County, where I live, county snowplows have been pulled from the roadways due to low visibility. Winds are whipping at about 30 mph.

I live in a valley in Faribault. So when conditions look bad at my place, I know it’s bad out there.

Today I’m hunkered down at home with my husband, Randy, and our 16-year-old son. Randy wasn’t too happy this morning when I suggested he stay home from work. (I was thinking of hiding the car keys.) But he heeded my advice and I’m thankful given he works 15 snowy miles away in Northfield. Of course, he tells me, “I could have made it there and back.”

Yeah, right. The job is not worth the risk of driving in blizzard conditions. And, yes, my area of Minnesota is under a blizzard warning.

I haven’t been outdoors yet. Randy has been out, blowing snow from our driveway and that of a neighbor. He thought it would be easier this way, clearing the snow twice rather than a foot or more all at once.

Our van, which is parked on the driveway, is encased in ice from the freezing rain and sleet that fell for several hours last evening.

All of our plans for the day have been abandoned. Our son should have been taking his ACT test, but that was canceled. The college entrance exams were canceled at more than 50 schools in Minnesota. The last time he was slated to take the test, he had to cancel because of bronchitis.

The Christmas Walk at Shattuck-St. Mary’s School in Faribault is off, but the ice skating show set for 4 p.m. was still on the last I checked. I had hoped to attend both, but right now I really don’t feel like going anywhere.

The big batch of chili I cooked yesterday for tonight’s Family Game Night potluck at my church has gone into the freezer after that event was postponed. I’ll serve the chili at a family gathering next weekend…if we don’t have another blizzard and my guests can make it.

That’s life in Minnesota in winter, folks.

Traffic has picked up along my street in Faribault this afternoon despite blizzard conditions.

I've seen plenty of pickups with attached snowplows, like this, drive past my house today.

STAY SAFE this weekend. And if you don’t need to travel, don’t.

IF YOU HAVE any winter weather stories or weather condition reports to share from your area, please submit a comment. I’d like to hear from you.

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling