Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

About the current winter storm in Minnesota…a little advice January 18, 2020

Blowing snow reduces visibility along Rice County Road 25/197th Street East near its intersection with CR 23/Gates Avenue mid-afternoon on Saturday, January 18, 2020.


IF ANYONE IN MINNESOTA doubts the danger and fierceness of the current winter storm, just look at this photo.

Taken mid-afternoon, this shows white-out conditions along Rice County Road 25 near Faribault.

In a moment of stupidity, I agreed to go for a little drive in the country. Randy said we’d just head east of town past the rural homes of several friends, then follow another county road for a few miles to Minnesota State Highway 60 that would take us back to town.

Bad idea. The nearer we got to the T intersection of CR 25 and CR 23, the worse the conditions. I admit to a moment or ten of panic when I felt lost in a sea of white. Randy maintained his usual calm demeanor as he turned onto County Road 23 and visibility did not improve. He skirted the edges of drifts, kept the car on the roadway and got us safely to highway 60.

And, no, I did not exit the car to take photos. That would have been a really bad idea given the brutal whipping wind gusting between 30 – 50 mph. People die in weather like this if stranded outdoors. Not that I expected to be stranded. But who does?

If you yell at me in the comments section, your criticism is deserved. Maybe consider this a public service announcement or a first-hand field account from a former journalist.

Stay safe. And don’t be tempted (like me) to venture outside of town during a winter storm/blizzard. Not a good idea.

Watch for more photos in a future post.

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


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

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 9:55 PM
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

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


Digging out during a Minnesota blizzard December 11, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 9:11 PM
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

“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