Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Rider in the storm or… January 30, 2018

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DAYS AFTER A MAJOR STORM dumped 16 inches of snow on Faribault, I spotted a motorcycle in the parking lot of a local liquor store. It wasn’t exactly bike riding weather with the temp at around 30 degrees.

 

Days after the storm, a fleet of city snow removal equipment lined up in front of my home as sunset broke.

 

Perhaps this Bold North biker had something to prove. Or maybe not.

 

 

 

I snapped a few photos of the bike with my smartphone, not even noticing the expired tabs and the travel bags until I reviewed the photos later. Hey, I’m not one to stand around outside in cold weather without proper warm attire.

 

 

Once inside Fareway Spirits & More, I mentioned the bike to the clerk. Turns out it had been sitting in the parking lot for days, moved there from the unplowed street (which is now plowed). She wondered if the abandoned motorcycle might be stolen, but had not phoned police. I didn’t either.

Monday evening the bike was still parked in the same spot in the cold and snowy Bold North of Faribault. From all forecasts I’ve seen, the weather in Minnesota won’t be suitable for riding anytime soon, including on Sunday. Forecasters are already predicting the coldest Super Bowl on record with lows of minus 10 – 15 degrees and a high above zero. If we’re lucky.

UPDATE, 7:15 pm, Tuesday, January 30: The bike, still parked in the same lot, is a Yamaha Star, Arkansas license, so reports the husband who stopped to check this evening.

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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

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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

 

A Groundhog Day snowstorm socks Minnesota February 3, 2016

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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

 

Hey, Minnesota and Wisconsin, are you ready? November 9, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 3:37 PM
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FIRST SIGNIFICANT SNOWSTORM of the season…

As I snapped this photo from my living room window, this pick-up truck slid on the snowy street.

I could be looking out my living room window tomorrow at a scene like this from February 2014 as the first snowfall of the season moves into my area of southeastern Minnesota.

I keep hoping the forecasters are wrong in their prediction for a “potent storm system” developing in Minnesota this evening and continuing into Monday/Tuesday. But it appears they are not based on the latest updates from the National Weather Service.

Snow falling at a rate of one to two inches an hour is predicted in this system which will stretch from the western border of Minnesota into Wisconsin.

Travel will be impacted. You think?

Total accumulations of up to a foot of heavy, wet snow are expected. My county of Rice is on the borderline of 4 – 8 or 8 – 12 inches. It appears places to the north, like the Twin Cities an hour away, will get the most.

My husband blowing out our driveway.

My husband blowing out our driveway. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo May 2013.

Snow shovels are in place. Gas can has been filled. Snowblower is at the ready.

You can almost sense the anticipation. A major Big Box retailer was a zoo yesterday and looked equally as busy today. And, let me tell you, the grocery store was not the place to shop this morning after church.

It’s as if everyone is stocking up, preparing to hunker down, realizing that tomorrow’s efforts will be focused on snow removal and staying off the roads.

Be safe everyone.

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

Clearing our driveway. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo February 2014.

IF YOU LIVE in Minnesota or Wisconsin, how are you prepping for Monday’s mega storm? Are you ready?

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

A snow day in Faribault February 21, 2011

“YOU DIDN’T BELIEVE ME. Give me a high five.”

That’s how the 17-year-old reacted at 7:07 this morning after learning that Faribault schools are closed today because of a snow day.

I wish I had been the one to deliver the good news to him, to a boy who typically lingers in bed until he risks being late for school, which he was one day recently, on a Thursday “late start” day of all days.

But this morning my son heard the “no school” news from his dad, who is currently blowing the eight or nine or 10 inches of snow from ours and our neighbor’s driveways.

Upstairs, the teen is likely back in dreamland and I’ve had a pleasant start to my morning with no snarling, no crabbing, no frowns or grumpy face.

Ah, yes, I love snow days.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Snow in Minnesota, again February 20, 2011

UP UNTIL ABOUT 45 minutes ago, snow was falling fast and furious here in Faribault, at a rate of an inch an hour.

Visibility had dwindled to a block in town. As for the country, I wouldn’t even want to guess.

But now, shortly after noon, the snow flakes aren’t as thick or as heavy and conditions have improved. Perhaps this is simply a lull in a storm predicted to drop up to 15 inches of snow here in southeastern Minnesota, more in southwestern Minnesota, “more” being 20 inches.

My area of Minnesota is currently under a winter storm warning until noon Monday.

In southwestern Minnesota, where my mom and other family members live, a blizzard warning has been issued. Snow and winds have created difficult driving conditions and low visibility on the prairie, according to information I just read on the Minnesota Department of Transportation website. I expect that snow gates, if they have not already been lowered across roads like Minnesota State Highway 19, will soon be put in place. That means you do not travel those roadways without the risk of a hefty fine. Prairie people, for the most part, understand the dangers of traveling in a blizzard and stay put.

I expect to spend my day holed up at home, wrapping up writing projects for Minnesota Moments’ spring issue. It’s a good day to do that and a good way to avoid working on income tax. I detest rounding up tax information and, this year, have put off the awful numbers task longer than normal.

On the way home from church, my husband and I stopped at the grocery store, a busy place at 10 a.m. As we entered the store, we were greeted by a shopper who just smiled and said, “Here we go again.” He was, of course, referring to the snow.

Then, a half hour later as we exited the store with our bread and other food packed into three bags, a cart-pusher, who was struggling to gather grocery carts in the snowy parking lot, declared, “Winter all over again.”

See the common word in their statements? That would be “again.”

Yup, here we go again.

I WOULD LOVE TO HEAR reports about weather conditions in your area. So submit a comment.

 

I APOLOGIZE for the lack of current photos, but I am without my Canon for a week while it is being cleaned.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

The snow angels of rural Minnesota December 22, 2010

THEY ARE THE ANGELS of rural Minnesota.  The volunteer firefighters. The volunteer first responders. The volunteer ambulance crews.

If you don’t believe me, then spend some time in a place like Vesta, population around 330, on the southwestern Minnesota prairie where I grew up.  In small towns like this, the nearest clinic and hospital are often a 20-mile drive or more.

My mom still lives in my hometown and, because she’s getting up there in age, I worry about her. But that concern is offset somewhat by the knowledge that first responders will come to her aid in a medical emergency. And they have.

So when I read an article in the December 16 The Gaylord Hub, a community newspaper where I worked decades ago right out of college, I knew I had to share a story by reporter Lisa Uecker. She wrote about an ambulance trip from Gibbon to New Ulm during the December 11 blizzard.

Uecker is graciously permitting me to retell that story here. It’s worth your time to read for the lessons it teaches in dedication and care and how those in small towns will go the extra mile to assist their friends and neighbors.

In this instance, the miles, literally, were extra and a trip which should have taken perhaps 30 minutes became a 3 ½-hour ordeal.

The incident begins at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, December 11, during the height of the two-day blizzard. The volunteer Winthrop Ambulance Service receives a call to Gibbon some eight miles to the west. Once the crew reaches Gibbon and the patient, they backtrack to Winthrop knowing they must travel the longer, but safer, state highways rather than follow the shorter route along county roads. From Winthrop, they are headed 16 miles south along Minnesota State Highway 15 to the hospital in New Ulm.

A paramedic intercept is impossible, the crew learns, so snowplows are dispatched to meet the ambulance at the intersection of Highway 15 and Nicollet County Road 1 near Lafayette. One plow goes into the ditch. Another is low on fuel. The third has mechanical problems. None of the plows make it to the appointed rendezvous site.

 

If you're unfamiliar with Sibley and Nicollet counties, here's a map photo to show you the roadways and towns highlighted in this story.

The ambulance crew is on its own, traveling in white-out conditions near Klossner. The rescue vehicle soon becomes stuck on the shoulder. Because snowplows have been pulled off the roads, the Lafayette Fire Department comes to the rescue, freeing the ambulance with its pumper truck.

After passing Klossner, the ambulance gets stuck again, but the driver–ambulance captain and assistant Sibley County attorney Donald Lannoye–is able to rock the vehicle free.

Finally, at 6 p.m., the patient, who has been stable throughout the ride, is delivered to the New Ulm Medical Center.

The four-member volunteer ambulance crew spends the night in New Ulm.

In an interview with reporter Uecker, Lannoye says that once he passed Sibley County Road 8 right outside of Lafayette, he could never drive more than five miles per hour due to poor visibility and road conditions. The crew saw 11 – 15 cars in ditches and 4 – 6 cars stuck in traffic lanes near Lafayette.

Then Lannoye also reveals that his crew began their day at 5 a.m., transporting a patient on icy roads to Hutchinson.

If ever there was an outstanding example of the care and concern residents of rural Minnesota have for each other, then this would be it. We should all be thankful for volunteers like Lannoye, ambulance crew members Lisa Klenk and Todd Storms,  EMT-in-training Katie Uecker and Lafayette Volunteer Fire Department members who braved a blizzard to help their neighbors.

They are, indeed, snow angels.

IF YOU HAVE A STORY to share about how volunteers have helped you or someone you love, submit a comment. I’m certain there are many such stories out there.

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling and Lisa Uecker