Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

The long Minnesota winter February 26, 2019

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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I stood in our driveway to show you the height of the snow piled at the end of the drive, on both sides. The stop sign on the street corner is barely visible from this perspective. Backing out of the driveway and pulling onto the roadway require caution as snow piles block vision lines.


I’VE COMPLAINED A LOT about winter recently. Both here and in conversation. I’m not alone. Ask almost any Minnesotan (except my friend Jackie) if they are weary of winter and the answer will be a resounding yes.


Clearing snow is a seemingly endless task. Here Randy works to clear the sidewalk.


The record-breaking snow of February pushed us all to that brink of winter weariness. The endless snow removal, plans canceled by weather, difficult driving conditions, schools closed, brutal temps and winds, and much more combine to make this a challenging winter.


A view of Willow Street, an arterial street running past our Faribault home.


We need a break. Not everyone has the ability, financial or otherwise, to escape to a warmer place.


Another view of the snow piled at the end of our driveway.


If I was 50 years younger, my attitude likely would differ. As a child, I embraced winter on the southwestern Minnesota prairie, playing for endless hours atop mountainous, rock-hard snowdrifts and racing across towering snow piles. Sledding and skating. And in between, farm chores, which were finger-numbing cold in winter. Not fun, really, but necessary for our financial survival.


The narrow snow banked pathway to our front door.


Randy finally decided just to leave the ladder outside, leaning here against the garage. He’s been on the garage and house roofs twice to shovel off the snow.


Time warp to today, to adulthood. Snow no longer represents fun. It represents work. Randy has handled the bulk of snow removal using our ancient (I term it Noah’s ark) snowblower. But some shoveling still needs to be done in areas like the roof, front steps and walk.


You can barely see Randy’s head over the snow piled at the end of our sidewalk.


Shoveling the snow wall built by the city snowplow at the end of the sidewalk.


And when the snowplow pushes snow into the end of the sidewalk or driveway, the snow often needs to be sliced apart for the snowblower to chomp through the snow wall. Randy and I sometimes work in tandem on that task, me working the shovel.


Finally, through the snow wall and moving down the sidewalk.


The snow piles have reached such a height now that when Randy blows the snow, it won’t even go over the tops of some snow mounds.


The sidewalk past our house cleared of snow Sunday afternoon.


On Sunday afternoon I grabbed my Canon DSLR and shot some images of my neighborhood, including our home, to try and give you a perspective on the height of the snow. All the while I did this, I remained cognizant of ice. The last thing I need is to slip and break another bone.


Another look at my neighborhood Sunday afternoon, February 24, 2019.


I’d say enjoy the photos. But that seems a ridiculous statement. Rather, appreciate the documentation of what has been an especially notable and memorable winter in southern Minnesota.


FOR ANOTHER photo view of snow in southeastern Minnesota, click here to see images from my friend Greg at Almost Iowa. He’s an incredible writer with a great sense of humor. He lives in the country near the Minnesota-Iowa border.

Then click here to view photos by my friend Jackie from Rochester. She’s the Jackie referenced in my opening paragraph. Jackie loves winter. I mean really really loves winter. She’s a talented photographer and does a great job of documenting the blizzard in Rochester, one of the hardest hit areas.

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


23 Responses to “The long Minnesota winter”

  1. Claudette Says:

    The photos are stunning!

    We had up and down temps but the bulk of the largest frozen snowbanks are still around making most residential streets one way. Sigh.

    The other thing with the thaw-freeze cycle is the potholes on every single street. SIGH. They did a blitz this weekend to fix the worst ones but that won’t last. Winter isn’t over yet.

    Then comes the water seeping into basements…we waterproofed our house a number of years ago with $ we didn’t have but are thankful now because the damage would be more expensive.

    Such a struggle!!

    Hang in there. 🙂🇨🇦

    • I know you can relate. We are not in the thaw-freeze cycle yet. We’re stuck in freeze. Temps are cold again and forecast for colder this weekend.

      The potholes will come soon enough. My second daughter hit a big one in Madison, Wisconsin, on Sunday and ended up with a flat tire.

      Good move to waterproof your basement. We did ours a few years ago also, on our own. That was an incredible amount of work, especially when the husband had to saw through the cement floor. Despite every effort to contain the husband, it spread through the entire house. Clean-up was extensive, time-consuming and an incredible amount of work. I was not happy.

  2. Beth Ann Says:

    That is a lot of snow —what a mess you guys have. Hopefully no more snow in the future but I suspect you are not out of the woods yet. Stay warm!

    • Snow is in the forecast for today and for Thursday. Hey, but at least the southbound lane of I-35 from Owatonna to Iowa is now open. Some 200 people had to be rescued in Steele County alone during the blizzard. Six hundred state-wide.

  3. Littlesundog Says:

    Wow, my brother was right! The snow IS piled high everywhere. They were glad to exit Rochester just in time to miss the latest winter storm. As soon as they got home, they got about 8 inches of snow at home. What a miserable year up north. I won’t be venturing up any time soon. I’m not a skilled and confident ice and snow driver like I used to be!

  4. Snow Overload for Sure – it is everywhere even the roofs have a good amount! Dangerous conditions all around to drive in too – from the snow to the ice and the stop signs playing peek a boo. You are MN Tough – Be Safe and Stay Warm 🙂

  5. Good lord, Audrey! I don’t blame you for being tired of the cold and the snow! I spent a winter in the NW that was similar. We got tons of snow dropped on us and then the temperature plummeted. All these mounds of snow were frozen solid. There were “walls” of snow in the middle of the roads in town because there was just no way to remove it. I’ll pray for warmth!! Stay warm and please be careful! ❤

  6. Sometimes I feel guilty about loving winter, so sweet of you to mention me in your post. You are not alone, I hear comments everywhere I go about how “winter” just needs to be done. I think February is just a hard month, it’s about the time most have just had enough. Hopefully things will settle down now….Spring will come… it really will! Tell Randy to be careful on the roof .

    • Oh, Jackie, do NOT feel guilty about loving winter. I appreciate that you do and I wish some of your positive attitude would seep into my perspective.

      Randy is tired of me reminding him to be careful on the roof. One day he actually retreated from the ladder after realizing the rood was icy. So that was a good sign that he is taking care.

  7. Almost Iowa Says:

    Hey, thanks for the shout out.

    I spent two hours yesterday helping my neighbor get his truck out of a snowdrift. He caught cabin fever and just HAD to try to get to the highway. No sooner than he turned onto our road than his truck was swallowed by a four foot drift. Lucky him because six foot drifts awaited him further on.

    We got him back into his driveway just in time for a big green tractor with a plow to clear a single lane down the road. Unfortunately, the highway was not cleared.

    Julie said one lane was open to Austin this morning but people were still coming to work on snowmobiles.

    Portions of I-90 and I-35 are still closed and MNDOT says it will take up to a week to clear the shoulders…..and snow is predicted next weekend.

    • You are welcome, Greg. Your words and images create a compelling and humorous story.

      Two hours digging your neighbor out? Wow. Our neighbor got stuck in her driveway on Sunday, just as she got stuck about two weeks ago. She is in her 80s and was determined to get to church. A few days prior I told her not to go out in this weather. That advice went nowhere. Anyway, you’re a great neighbor.

      Now there’s a story–people driving to work on their snowmobiles. I know your region is really susceptible to drifts in that flat, open land. Take care. And tell your neighbor to stay home. Safe driving for Julie also.

  8. I’ve seen a lot of pictures from the Rochester area from past Mayo co-workers–it’s a crazy winter and Minnesotans definitely have every reason to complain. I hope sunshine and warmth head your way soon!

  9. Sandra Van Erp Says:

    I’m so sorry. The one poster nailed it, if roofs hold up, ice doesn’t get us, it’s what to come as all this tries to go away. We didn’t have much until Jan., just the bitter cold. Then ENOUGH! but not piled as high as yours. I always say after zero and 12″, the rest is academic. I see the Faribault schools has to revise it’s calendar. This will be one to remember. The state should forgive days. Our biggest issue in our 8 bldgs. is the roofs. For sure, we WILL get through this. It’s almost Lent. For me, somehow that helps. I won’t say how nice CO was, 3″ one day, gone the next. Great time with the oldest’s family. Take care!!

  10. OMG!! That is a huge amount of snow. Wondered about you all weekend as I checked my KARE 11 app and saw the crazy stuff causing issues. Just glad you have a husband that is healthy enough to do all that snow removal.
    Hate to tell you but we had the warmers Feb 26th ever 20C (68F).

  11. Kathleen Cassen Mickelson Says:

    Heh – even I’m over it now, Audrey! Love the photos. Looks like our neighborhood at the moment, although I think you have a little more snow than we do.

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