Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

When snow piles force you to play chicken March 6, 2019

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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I stood in my driveway to show you the height of the snow piled at the end of the drive. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo February 2019.



That’s the most accurate comparison I can make as we deal with massive snow piles at the ends of driveways and at intersections here in Faribault and throughout Minnesota.

Back out of a snow-banked driveway and you risk hitting a vehicle you may not have seen because of the snow. But even worse, peeking around snow piles at intersections for oncoming traffic.


A view of Willow Street, a main arterial street running past my Faribault home. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo February 2019.


I live on a corner lot along a heavily-traveled street in Faribault. I am thankful our driveway is on the side street. Most driveways along this arterial route are not. My side street is busy also, serving as a direct route for parents, students and others to get to the Catholic school just blocks away.

I’m surprised I haven’t witnessed a crash at this intersection. I’ve heard vehicles honk warnings. It’s just a matter of time before a collision occurs. That could be serious given the rate at which many vehicles travel. I often wonder at those drivers who exercise no caution when circumstances call for caution.


Another snow obscured intersection in Faribault.


So what’s the solution? I’d love to see city crews clear the vision-blocking snow piles at the T-intersection by my house. Public safety is at risk. But I also realize crews are overworked and taxed by continual snow removal as storm after storm after winter storm brings record snow to our area. They have done a great job with snow removal during and right after snowfalls.

I’ve observed additional snow clean-up during lulls between snow events. Just last week several blocks around the Catholic school were widened and snow hauled away. I’m OK with that. Those streets needed widening to accommodate on-street parking and room for emergency vehicles.

But my street, a main route through town, could use widening also and removal of vision-blocking snow piles built by city snow removal equipment. Thousands of vehicles, including emergency vehicles, drive this route daily.

For now, drivers continue to nose into the intersection by my house and hope they don’t miss seeing oncoming vehicles.

TELL ME: Are you dealing with vision-blocking snow piles in your community? Have you witnessed or experienced a collision/near-collision because of snow pile issues? What do you suggest as a solution? (Other than fleeing to a warm weather state.)

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


34 Responses to “When snow piles force you to play chicken”

  1. Ruth Says:

    Oh my Audrey. How dangerous. I hope your piles are taken care of soon. Our snow is so paltry compared to your mountains. Enough. More than enough, already. Sorry it’s been such a rough winter. There will be crocuses soon. I hope.

    • As we Minnesotans say, “It could be worse.” At least we are not dealing with killer tornadoes and mudslides and so many other deadly weather issues. My heart goes out to those affected by those catastrophes.

      We will persevere. The crocuses will erupt. Spring will bloom. It’s just going to take awhile. A major winter storm is in the forecast for mixed precip here Saturday through Sunday.

  2. I think a good visual for your city leaders is needed. Sometimes an actual invite to “see” the problem in person gets it resolved. You guys have had a crazy winter snowfall. I don’t envy you having to deal with all those issues surrounding winter overload.

    • The intersection by my house is simply an example of what most intersections appear like throughout the city. Mine is different only because this a main route through town and many more motorists are exposed to potential accidents. Your suggestion is a good one.

  3. Beth Ann Says:

    I can’t believe there has not been a collision there—you can’t see a thing. It takes so much energy and time to deal with the snow and I am sure everyone is over it by now including the city employees who are in charge of removal. Hopefully they will address your growing piles soon.

    • More snow is coming Saturday into Sunday, so those piles will grow in height. I know the city can’t possibly remove every snow pile. In the meantime, drivers need to simply slow down and drive with extra care, especially at intersections.

  4. Kathleen Cassen Mickelson Says:

    Yep, we have piles and piles of snow, too. Backing out of my driveway is a challenge, but what has saved me this winter is the backup camera on my car – I can set it to see on either side while I edge out. But that doesn’t help me at those intersections where everyone has to nose out. Everybody slowing down is the only thing that will help until some of this snowpack melts! But sanity does not seem to be every driver’s strong suit.

  5. I like the option of fleeing to a warm weather state 🙂 Spring Break and Baseball Spring Training is happening here, so plenty to do and see. We got a good amount of beads from the Mardi Gras parade last night. You can see the passion and the creativity people put into their floats last night. Be Safe and Stay Warm. Happy Day – Enjoy!

    • That sounds like a lot of fun. Thanks for sharing your warmth and sunshine story with us.

    • We dropped into the 40’s last night, which is a huge drop for us here in being almost 20 degrees cooler. A little shocking to the system. However, being around snow and that cold up there would be an even bigger shock to my system. Plus after a somewhat cold shower this morning found out the hot water heater got turned off in the bathroom reno that is happening this week. Oops!

      • Don’t you have freeze warnings in Florida? That could be devastating to orange crops.

        A cold shower would certainly wake you up. I hope the reno is going well.

      • Certain parts of Florida have freeze warnings for tonight.

        Reno is going good so far. We are down to the big projects since buying the house in 2016. Updating windows and doors, carpeting, etc. Eventually going to expand the living room and level up the closed in patio to match the living room floor height and maybe one of these years get to updating the kitchen.

      • Those are a lot of major projects to tackle. But your house will definitely be your own when you’re done. Your personality. Your style. Yours.

        I’m still waiting on a kitchen re-do. We could have had a new kitchen multiple times already if not for the insane monthly $1,600 health insurance premiums we’re paying. I joked with Randy that soon he will need to pay his employer to work there given all that’s taken out of his checks. Thankfully I’ve picked up some extra income lately through photo sales and my new blog coordinator position at Warner Press. I cannot wait until I reach age 65 in a few years. Because of the health coverage.

      • Yes it will be.

        Kitchens are those types of things you have to save up for and do in one shot. You could put in a cabinet here and there and update a sink, but you may lose your mind over the months it takes to complete.

        Sounds like you enjoy your new position and the bonus is a little extra income too.

      • I’ve heard that kitchens are the worst re-do project to undertake. I believe it. But the bathroom was not easy either, considering we only have one and Randy did the work himself.

        Good luck with all of your projects.

  6. Caryl Larson Says:

    Brookings is awful also. Almost got T-boned last week. The Street crews are trying to widen main arteries through town, but corners are just terrible. More snow for the weekend and next week. I’m so over it!!

  7. Almost Iowa Says:

    Those snow piles make driving on township roads a lot like playing roulette.

    • Hey, isn’t there a casino just down the road from you across the border?

      Be careful driving along those township roads.

      • Almost Iowa Says:

        Yeah, Diamond Joe’s.

        Personally, I prefer to gamble at a bank where my odds are 1:1.01 rather than at a casino where the odds are 1:0.83. 🙂 🙂

      • I’ve never gambled at a casino and only been inside one, which was filled with suffocating cigarette smoke. Not my kind of place for that reason and more. It made me sad to see all those people mindlessly sitting there pulling levers. A quick walk-through and I was out of that area. A cousin, however, had his wedding reception in a casino banquet room many years ago. We stayed in the attached hotel, which was supposedly smoke-free. Not. Smoke from the smoking part filtered in and we had to leave early because I felt like elephants were stomping on my chest. Nope, I don’t go to casinos.

  8. Bears have the right idea with hibernation, in my opinion. They can just let it snow while they slumber away in peace. I wish that were possible for humans on some levels. I’ve never seen anything like your photos. It’s scary having to depend on the foresight of other drivers to be extremely careful when approaching intersections impacted by the snow accumulation. Be careful–and I’m still praying for some warm sunshine to come your way.

    • Thanks for your prayers. The sun shines here, like today. And I see snow melt dripping from the roof. But we have so much snow that it will take a lot of sun and much warmer temps to even make a difference in diminishing snow piles.

  9. wow… Sending you warm wishes!! ❤

  10. Sandra Van Erp Says:

    I concur with all your insights on casinos. I also remember when Willow was just a nice little drive to Donahue’s and Meadow Ridge. Then came the middle school and Divine Mercy. I saw an aerial of their property which is certainly keeping the plows busy just to get to the church campus. Our property has one exit onto main artery to 3M, McKnight Rd. That and the intersection 200 ft. away look like your driveway. Some melting, but yes, more snow next weekend. We need melt, but slow would be nice. Flood predictions are all over the place, including for the Cannon. Apparently all those leaving the state for spring break don’t have property to protect. Yes, we try to keep a good thought…and drive carefully. A word to your city fathers couldn’t hurt.

    • Yes, the traffic along Willow increased substantially when the middle school was built. Divine Mercy added more. But I especially disliked relocation of the ambulance garage to our area. It’s nowhere near the center of the town so I don’t understand the reasoning of the relocation. Now we also have to put up with ambulance sirens wailing day and night. But the good thing is that the ambulance is nearby should we ever need one.

  11. lzzylove Says:

    Expectation: Really fun, and takes up a lot of your time.
    Reality: Having to shovel snow in your driveway, and also that taking a lot of your time (In a bad way)

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