Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

The view from Faribault during today’s major winter storm April 14, 2018

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Approaching the intersection of Minnesota State Highway 60 and Division Street in Faribault around 10:30 a.m.

 

ROAD CLOSED. Difficult driving conditions. Travel not advised.

 

I ducked under a canopy to shoot this image in the heart of downtown Faribault late this morning.

 

It’s bad out there folks. Not that I’ve been anywhere except in the downtown area of Faribault today. But that was enough to show me that this major winter storm is exactly as predicted.

 

Driving along Second Avenue toward the intersection with Minnesota State Highway 60 in Faribault. Lots of folks were out this morning buying groceries and getting video rentals.

 

In the 1.5 hours I was out this morning, precipitation transitioned from light snow to heavy. You couldn’t see a block away with strong winds reducing visibility. I can only imagine the view in the open countryside.

 

That’s Fareway Foods, barely visible from across Minnesota State Highway 60 in Faribault.

 

Right now we’re in a lull. The weather looks deceptively calm. Just like it did this morning when I awakened, observed only a light layer of frozen precip on the ground and thought, “This is it, the big storm they were forecasting.”

 

Eastbound on Minnesota State Highway 60 in downtown Faribault shortly before noon.

 

Hours later I wasn’t thinking that as I braced into the wind-driven snow, head down, heading back to the van.

 

Passing by the Faribault Police Department, right, around 11:30 a.m.

 

I’m home now, about to stir up a batch of oatmeal chocolate chip cookies and later bake garlic rosemary focaccia. I’d rather be where I was supposed to be today—attending my granddaughter’s second birthday party an hour away. That’s been delayed. And to think, her California family flew in just for the party, only to find themselves in the midst of a major winter storm. Welcome to winter in Minnesota.

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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Bracing for a strong winter storm in Minnesota April 13, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 10:21 AM
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A GALLON OF UNOPENED milk sits on the top shelf of the refrigerator. A full loaf of bread is tucked into a kitchen drawer. We are ready. Milk. And bread. Two staples.

Randy and I joke about having milk and bread on hand whenever a major winter storm is forecast for Minnesota. And one is for today in to Saturday with blizzard warnings issued for the western part of the state and a winter storm warning for much of southern Minnesota, including the Twin Cities metro.

I’ve heard forecasts of up to a foot of snow in my area. Heavy. Wet. Preceded by rain (already falling), sleet/freezing rain and then snow. Up to an inch of snow an hour. Plus strong winds.

Already people and organizations are rescheduling events like the Echo Fire Relief Association Pork Chop Dinner, the Women’s Cannon River Conference Spring Gathering, a Redwood Senior Dining Potluck…

Saturday will be a good day to hunker down at home and stay off roads. Travel is expected to be difficult, especially on my native prairie where up to 18 inches of snow combined with winds of 40 – 50 mph will create blizzard white-out conditions. Fail to respect those weather conditions and you could find yourself in major trouble if stranded in the countryside. I expect snow gates will be lowered to keep drivers safe and off highways.

Several times in recent weeks, predicted snowfalls have not materialized. But we shouldn’t chance that the weather forecasters are crying wolf. Time will tell…

Be safe, my friends, if you live anywhere in the path of this winter storm.

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

So…we got a little snow here in Faribault… January 22, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 9:55 PM
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My patio and backyard photographed around 4 p.m. Monday when the snow let up for a bit. You can see the snow depth by looking at the table and the vintage lawn chairs near the tree to the left.

 

SNOW HAS BEEN FALLING for more than 15 hours now in Faribault with an unofficial accumulation of 14.5 inches measured on my backyard patio.

 

The heavy snow made for some beautiful scenery.

 

Love these snow-laden branches.

 

Strong winds plastered snow to the side of our house, for awhile completely covering the kitchen window.

 

Coupled with high winds, blizzard conditions continue in the region. The Minnesota Department of Transportation advises no travel along roadways like Interstate 35 from Owatonna, past Faribault to just south of the metro. For awhile today, Rice County pulled its snowplows. My husband’s commute home from Northfield along Minnesota State Highway 3 doubled in time to 45 minutes. I convinced him to leave work early, around 12:30 p.m. Conditions were the worst he’s seen on the road in 34 years of driving to and from Northfield.

 

Randy begins the process of clearing snow from our driveway at 4 p.m. Monday.

 

Now, after three hours of tag team snowblowing and shoveling, we have our driveway and sidewalk cleared and that of a senior neighbor. My back aches and I’m tired. It’s been a long time since we’ve had this much snow in one shot.

 

 

Soon I’ll kick back, watch the evening news for snowfall totals across Minnesota. And then sometime during the middle of the night, I’ll startle to the banging of a snowplow blade on Willow Street or the beep of a city plow backing and clearing the intersection.

 

 

When I awaken Tuesday morning, I’ll separate curtain panels and peer outside to see the driveway apron packed with bladed snow. And the process of clearing snow will start all over again.

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Of Vikings, a blizzard & Minnesota Nice

The Vikings’ loss and fan reaction headlined news late this morning on a Twin Cities TV station.

 

NOT WANTING TO SOUND like a poor loser the day after the Minnesota Vikings’ loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC championship game, I pondered what to post here. Watching the second half of the game, which ended with a 38 – 7 win for the Eagles, proved difficult. I mostly read a book, diverting my attention from the disaster unfolding on the TV screen.

But rather than wallow in the disappointment of the Vikings not advancing to the Super Bowl in their hometown, I choose to remember the seven days in which Minnesotans united in exuberance over the Minneapolis Miracle. It felt good, really good, to be part of such a positive experience, the pride in our state strong.

As the Vikings-Eagles game ended Sunday evening, I turned to my husband and asked, “Now who are you going to cheer for in the Super Bowl?” His answer was swift. “The Eagles,” he said, explaining that he often roots for the underdog. Me, too. Typically. But our son lives in greater Boston and the New England Patriots hail from Massachusetts…

And then I read a post by Minnesota Public Radio’s Bob Collins, whom I respect as a news blogger. He wrote this morning about the way some Eagles fans treated some Vikings fans yesterday in Philadelphia. It wasn’t pretty with taunting, foul language and even beer cans tossed. Is this normal behavior? I hope not. Collins points out that in just two weeks, Eagles fans will arrive in Minnesota from the City of Brotherly Love. Will we show them our signature Minnesota Nice? I am confident we will.

 

Minnesota kids need warm hats and mittens during these cold and snowy Minnesota winters.

 

An email which arrived in my in-box this morning from Thrivent Financial, a Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee Partner, confirms my premise that we Minnesotans are good at heart and we’ll show the world that during Super Bowl LII. Thrivent is partnering with Hats and Mittens for a Super Hats & Mittens event the day before the game to make (or collect) 52,000 hats and mittens for those in need. Attendees will craft hats and mittens from fleece during the gathering which also features food, an author, music and more. If this event wasn’t located just blocks from US Bank Stadium, I’d consider attending. But I don’t want to be anywhere near the stadium around Super Bowl time.

 

The view from my home office window this morning as a blizzard rages outside.

 

And this would be my kitchen window which is totally covered by wind-driven snow.

 

Early this morning I took this shot from an upstairs window of the van parked in my driveway near the garage.

 

All of this aside, we here in southern Minnesota have another, much more important, distraction today. The weather. My county of Rice and several other Minnesota counties are in a blizzard warning until midnight. Fierce winds are driving snow nearly horizontally across the landscape. It’s not pretty out there.

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

A Groundhog Day snowstorm socks Minnesota February 3, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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A City of Faribault truck plows snow on the street past my house Tuesday afternoon.

A City of Faribault truck plows snow on the street past my house Tuesday afternoon.

MINNESOTA HUNKERED DOWN on Groundhog Day during the first major winter storm of the season.

In the southwestern corner, nearer the Iowa and South Dakota borders, Interstate 90 closed as did all state highways south of U.S. Highway 14 due to white-out conditions. I grew up in that prairie area and fully appreciate the power and dangers of a blizzard.

In my county of Rice, we received about eight inches of snow—according to the husband’s snow-clearing estimates—by early evening. Randy reported icy, snow-compacted lanes and drifting snow on Minnesota State Highway 3, his route home from work in Northfield.

For Minnesota kids, Tuesday was a day off from classes. Many schools announced closings already Monday evening in anticipation of the storm.

Some businesses closed early. Activities were canceled. There was no bingo at the Eagles in Faribault, no euchre at the Morristown Legion, no LeSueur County Cattlemen’s annual meeting.

This morning we resume the task of clearing away snow.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Digging out in Faribault from our latest winter storm February 21, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 12:18 PM
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THERE’S NO DENYING the beauty of Minnesota’s latest snowstorm blizzard, which dumped perhaps eight inches of snow on Faribault. I’m never good at judging snow totals.

Trees are iced with snow.

Trees iced with snow.

Heavy, wet snow layers upon trees and power lines, creating a surreal world of incredible beauty contrasted against a cobalt sky.

The  snow-coated woods behind my house are beautiful this morning.

The snow-coated woods behind my house are beautiful this morning.

But beauty will take winter only so far.

From my fenced backyard, I photographed my neighbor, Bob, blowing snow this morning.

From my fenced backyard, I photographed my neighbor, Bob, blowing snow this morning.

Faced with snow removal, I find that beauty quickly fades.

As much as I appreciate the hard-working snowplow drivers, I don't like digging out the snow they plow onto the ends of sidewalks (shown here) and driveways.

As much as I appreciate the hard-working snowplow drivers, I don’t like digging out the snow they plow onto the ends of sidewalks (shown here) and driveways. Sometimes it can be blown out, oftentimes not.

This storm, my husband and I took a two-step approach to getting the snow off our and a neighbor’s driveways and sidewalks. I initiated the plan Thursday afternoon when I realized Randy would never get the car through the snow at the end of the driveway upon his return home from work. The snowplow had gone by, creating a wall of ice and snow chunks.

Miracle of miracles, Randy actually arrived home at 5 p.m., 45 minutes earlier than usual. The boss said if he had to leave early, he could. He commutes to Northfield, 22 minutes distant, on a good day.

Randy opened the garage door this morning to begin the task of snow removal, phase II.

Randy opened the garage door this morning to continue the task of snow removal, phase II.

I had been shoveling for 30 minutes already when my spouse pulled out the snowblower. Our goal was to keep ahead of the storm somewhat. Shovel and blow Thursday and then again Friday morning.

Nearly done clearing our driveway Friday morning.

Nearly done clearing our driveway Friday morning.

And so here it is, nearing noon on Friday. The driveway and sidewalks at our home and our neighbor’s place are cleared, were cleared, by 9 a.m.

A scoop shovel worked best for removing this snow. I shovel where the snowblower can't go.

A scoop shovel worked best for removing this snow. I shovel where the snowblower can’t go or can’t handle.

My back, leg and arm muscles feel it. I’ve shoveled way too much snow this winter.

Snow flies as Randy works the snowblower down the driveway. Fortunately we are not without power, although the lights flickered numerous times Thursday evening.

Snow flies as Randy works the snowblower down the driveway. Fortunately we are not without power, although the lights flickered numerous times Thursday evening.

How about you?

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Blizzard warning January 26, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 4:19 PM
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A view from my front window around 4:30 p.m. shows reduced visibility due to blowing snow and fresh snow falling.

A view from my front window around 4:30 p.m. shows reduced visibility due to blowing snow and fresh snow falling.

UPDATE: 5:39 P.M.

WHILE PREPARING HOMEMADE lasagna, I listened to weather news on an Owatonna radio station. Here are snippets of the latest:

Extremely dangerous travel…travel with a winter survival kit.

Life-threatening windchills.

No plowing until the winds subside.

After the lasagna went into the oven, I stepped outside, ever so briefly, to snap a few photos from my yard as fierce winds flung snow and more snow fell from the heavy skies:

Shot from my back steps looking into my backyard and toward my neighbor's yard to the south.

Shot from my back steps looking into my backyard and toward my neighbor’s yard to the south.

Standing at the end of the driveway, I aimed my lens toward the side street past my corner house.

Standing at the end of the driveway, I aimed my lens toward the side street past my corner house.

And then I turned the other direction to photography Willow Street, a main arterial street in Faribault.

And then I turned the other direction to photograph Willow Street, a main arterial street in Faribault.

WRITTEN EARLIER, AROUND 2:30 P.M.

SNUGGED UNDER A FLEECE THROW in my home office, mug of hot chocolate to the right of my desk, fingertips resting on the computer keyboard, I glance outside.

The sun blazes, for the moment, upon a landscape that appears deceptively serene here in a valley in Faribault.

But then I shift my gaze higher, toward the sky and the tips of trees that reveal the truth in bending branches. Wind, oh, powerful wind. Occasionally snow blasts around the corner of the house.

My area of southeastern Minnesota, like much of the state, is currently in a blizzard warning. 

"The photograph, taken along Minnesota Highway 30 in southwestern Minnesota, photographed in January 2010..

“The photograph was taken along Minnesota Highway 30 in southwestern Minnesota  in January 2010. This gives you some idea of the landscape and how wind can whip snow. Conditions today are much, much worse than those shown in this image.

I google Minnesota 511 to learn of difficult driving conditions, spin-outs and crashes and a jackknifed semi along the stretch of Interstate 35 stretching from Burnsville to the Iowa border.

On television, I view footage of current conditions in the Northfield area 15 miles away. Visibility is poor with blowing snow on I-35.

Across the border in North Dakota, Interstate 94 between Fargo and Bismarck has been closed. The Fargo Forum currently lists 294 severe weather related announcements.

In my native southwestern Minnesota, U.S. Highway 71 has been closed. I expect it won’t be long before snow gates are pulled across other roadways as conditions deteriorate.

I will phone my mom shortly, as I do every Sunday. I expect she will tell me church services were cancelled. Again. Too many Sundays already in recent weeks, services at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Vesta, and in other southwestern Minnesota prairie communities, have been cancelled because of the cold and/or snow. When wind whips snow across the open landscape of that region, it is not safe to be out and about.

Tomorrow, once this blizzard ends at midnight, temps will plunge into the deep freeze again. Nearly unbearable cold.

Xcel Energy natural gas customers in Minnesota, North Dakota and Wisconsin are being asked to conserve energy after a pipeline rupture in Canada early Saturday morning. (Click here to read details.)

What a winter this has been already. To think, last Sunday the temp registered a balmy 40 degrees…

Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling