Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Preparing for another major winter storm in Minnesota February 21, 2023

(Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo 2018)

WHEN A MAJOR WINTER STORM is in the forecast for Minnesota, we Minnesotans listen intently. And then we stock up on eggs, milk and bread. Or so the joke goes. But, in reality, grocery stores do experience an uptick in business. Liquor stores, too. And for anyone who owns a snowblower—and that’s most of us—having enough gas to fuel snow removal is a must, not an option.

So here we are, poised to get massive quantities of snow over several days. Faribault is in the 17 to 22-inch snowfall range, according to the National Weather Service forecast on Monday. That bull’s eye target of snow stretches from western to eastern borders across a wide swatch of southern Minnesota from around Mankato in the south to St. Cloud in the north.

And then as if the large amounts of snow aren’t enough, winds are anticipated to rage, blowing around all that light, fluffy snow. The 40-45 mph winds gusting up to 50 mph will create white-out and blizzard conditions in many regions, especially on the prairie.

This looks to be a doozy of a winter storm that begins on Tuesday afternoon, ends on Thursday evening. Forecasters seem quite confident it will play out as predicted. I expect closures of schools, businesses and more. I expect snow gates (yes, there’s such a thing) to be pulled across interstates and other highways. There will be winter storm (our warning starts at 3 pm today) and blizzard warnings, travel advisories, “no travel recommended” and most likely stranded motorists who need rescuing.

Randy and I are prepared. I have a stack of library books to read. We have 2 ½ dozen eggs (thanks to a friend who has free-range chickens), enough milk and nearly a full loaf of bread. The snowblower gas tank is topped. And the mini fridge in the basement is stocked with craft beer. Yup, we’re ready…

© Copyright 2023 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


38 Responses to “Preparing for another major winter storm in Minnesota”

  1. beth Says:

    you are clearly calm, prepared and ready on all fronts for this. we have a warning out in advance for tomorrow night that we will be hit with a potential ice storm. all of this is a part of life for those of us who live in the northern states. what’s most important is how we prepare and deal with it.

    • Ice storms can be equally as challenging as a major snowstorm. I’m sorry you will potentially be dealing with icy conditions, which can lead to power outages. And, yes, being prepared and dealing with whatever comes our way is just something we do as northerners.

  2. Ruth Says:

    I am thinking of you and wishing you warm. That your power stays strong and you are safe. How did early settlers survive such harsh conditions? I guess you can feel the snow coming, a heaviness in the air. First time I heard of a snow Gate. That’s a lot of snowfall predicted. Love to you Audrey.

    • Thank you, Ruth. Right now it looks deceptively nice with even some glimpses of sun. But it’s beginning to cloud over. The National Weather Service has now moved our county into the BLIZZARD WARNING status beginning Wednesday through Thursday. Randy is already planning to stay home on Thursday, for which I am grateful.

      Snow gates have been around for a long time and are most prevalent in southwestern Minnesota, but even as near as 12 miles south of Faribault along Interstate 35. Sometimes portable electronic signs with side flashing lights are also in place with a message of “road closed when lights are flashing.” Drivers can be fined hundreds of dollars for going around snow gates.

      When I was growing up, I also had to have a “snow home,” a home to go to in case the buses couldn’t leave school during a winter storm and we were stuck in town. The high school I attended was about 20 miles away. I never had to use my snow home, but my younger siblings did. I do remember one bus ride home when a student had to stand on the bus steps with the door open and watch for the edge of the road so the bus driver didn’t go in the ditch. That bus packed full of students should never have been on the road in a winter storm.

  3. We hadn’t heard the phrase “Fool’s Spring” until we moved to Minnesota (in Oregon, we used to say “summer starts on the 5th of July” because Spring weather there (usually wet) was so unpredictable). Now we’re going to experience a Minnesota Spring snow dump of near epic proportions. Oh, joy! 🙄 ❄❄ These days, ramen is cheaper than eggs, so that’s what we stocked-up on. 😉

    • I’ve never actually heard the term “Fool’s Spring” and I’ve lived in Minnesota my entire life. By my definition, spring doesn’t begin until well into April. Sounds like you’re prepared for the storm. Hang in there. Spring will eventually come…in about two months.

  4. Preparation is the key! We have lived in the Midwest, Out West, and now in Florida – I have to think we have seen a good majority of weather throughout the years living in those different places. The wind is the worst because it causes drifts, black ice, some things move into the roadway, etc. If I do not have to be out in it I am staying in the comfort of my home. Take Care, Be Safe, Stay Warm – sending good thoughts and thinking about the people that may be impacted. Enjoy your day!

  5. Valerie Says:

    We are picking up friends from the airport Wednesday afternoon! Prayers appreciated. 😉

    • Oh, boy… It’s possible, even likely, your friends’ flight will be canceled. Given Rice County will be in a BLIZZARD WARNING already on Wednesday, you may want to rethink trying to get to the airport. Yes, I will pray. Be safe, my dear friend.

  6. Charity Says:

    It’s true! I stood in line at both the grocery store yesterday evening and the bookstore (everyone was stocking up). I’m ready!

  7. Susan Ready Says:

    Prayers to you

  8. Beth Ann Says:

    I just was watching the weather and saw this was coming. Oh my! Fingers crossed it isn’t as bad as they predict.

  9. Neil Says:

    Whenever I read one of your posts about the winter snows in MN, I’m certainly glad that I no longer live in your neck of the woods. Every time it rains here at this time of year, I am thankful that it is not snow or ice. I will almost always comment to someone that rain is sure a lot easier to shovel than snow!

    This milk, bread and eggs thing has always perplexed me. Growing up on a MN dairy farm like you did, the whole idea was completely foreign to me until after I left home. I’ve seen people do this in various locations of the country whenever snowy weather is threatening.

    Over the years, I’ve endured lots of snowstorms, ice storms, etc. Not once did I ever run out to “stock up” on any of those items! Yet, I also do not recall ever having run short of any food item during a storm event. I think that it is mostly a psychological thing that helps people feel like they’re prepared. The last time that I can remember being snowbound for more than 4 days at a stretch was in the 1970’s. My conclusion: Stock up if you feel that you must, but getting more than your normal needs for the week is not likely to be necessary.

    • I agree that stocking up on the basics may be more psychological than anything. Except for gas for the snowblower. And maybe books.

      My childhood winters were much worse than current day winters in terms of snow totals and wind and storms. But I did love winter back then on the farm, on the prairie.

  10. Sandra Says:

    Two weeks ago I was lounging, albeit in a sweatshirt, on my AZ daughter’s patio, listening to the coyotes in the open space. Now we’re almost in lock down…again. First earlier round was a pain in the backside. I’m thankful for the forecasting now, even when they don’t agree, as i remember my Mother’s Deerfield stories of winter farm life pre-1930 with 5 sisters and running a rope between house/barn/chicken koop. Now if only 35W semi’s could stay on the road. Take care, we’ll be shoveling here as well.

  11. Charles Ziegler Says:

    Good luck, but you sound well prepared. My Minnesota relatives live in Redwood County, but I expect they’ll be enduring similar conditions. Here in Fredericksburg, Virginia, we haven’t seen a single flake of snow so far this winter. I hope it stays that way, as I’m getting to be too old (75 last week) to do snow shoveling like I used to!

    • A belated happy 75th birthday, Charles! Oh, yes, your family in Redwood County will most assuredly be dealing with a blizzard. Even Rice County is in a blizzard warning beginning tomorrow and that is highly unusual. Not a single flake of snow sounds mighty good to me right now.

  12. Here we go! Hope you are warm and safe. The snow is already falling and drifting here. I’ve got a big pot of chili ready for dinner tonight

  13. 😂🤣🥶❄️ I had to laugh at the list of items you stocked up on. Only as I don’t have to think about that anymore (but did prior to the COVID run on stores here in Europe). Always having enough firewood stacked right next to the back door was also on my family’s MN blizzard list. Best wishes and enjoy the library books while you can.😊

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