Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

When another winter storm blasts Minnesota January 5, 2023

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Clearing snow from a parked car along Willow Street near my home Wednesday morning. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo January 2023)

HERE IT IS, only a few days into 2023 and Minnesota has already experienced its first major multi-day winter weather event of the new year. Snow. Ice. Freezing rain. Sleet. Drizzle. Everything.

With four months of winter remaining, I am already weary of snow. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo January 2023)

This storm comes on the heels of a major pre-Christmas snowstorm that essentially shut down travel in the southern half of our state. The fall-out is much the same. Snow-packed, icy roads. Crashes and spin-outs. Schools closed. Flights delayed and cancelled. A Delta jet from Mexico slid off an icy taxiway early Tuesday evening at Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport. No one was injured.

Snow layers on everything from trees to power and telephone lines. There were power outages in some parts of Minnesota, but not in Faribault. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo January 2023)

Tuesday and Wednesday were a weather mess here. Randy’s commutes, typically a 35-minute drive, took nearly an hour. He drove on several miles of a snow-covered state highway untouched by a snowplow blade and on snow-compacted, icy roads the remainder of the way.

The name on this plow blade indicates this plow truck driver means business when it comes to quick and easy snow removal. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo January 2023)

And then we had to deal with removing snow from our sidewalk and driveway. We are fortunate to own a snowblower. But it is ancient, bulky, subject to break-downs. Sheered pins. A metal ground plate so rusty that Randy finally removed it.

A City of Faribault snowplow truck passes through my neighborhood Wednesday morning. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo January 2023)

Heavy, wet snow like this is difficult to blow. The chute clogs, requiring frequent stops to clear the snow with something other than a hand. Chunks of snow bladed from the street into the ends of the driveway and sidewalk can’t be blown. That requires back-breaking shoveling. I felt like I was lifting rocks as I bent, scooped, heaved the heavy, moisture-laden snow atop the ever-growing mounds banking the drive and sidewalk ends. I paced myself, cognizant of my age and this heavy snow being “heart attack” or “widow maker” type snow.

Snowplow trucks have been out in full force for two days clearing snow from residential and business properties. I photographed this truck on Willow Street Wednesday morning. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo January 2023)

Just as I’d nearly finished clearing the driveway end, the guy removing snow from my neighbor’s property with a utility vehicle pushed the remaining snow away from our driveway. I felt such gratitude for this act of kindness. I leaned on the scoop shovel handle with a thankful heart.

As I type this late Wednesday morning, snow continues to fall, as it did overnight. The snow removal of yesterday will repeat today. The ends of the driveway and sidewalk are once again blocked by snow chunks plowed from the street.

Snow layers a neighbors’ yard, tree and fence as snow falls. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo January 2023)

But when I look beyond that to the woods behind my house, to my neighbors’ trees and bushes and rooftops, I glimpse a winter wonderland. This landscape layered in snow is lovely. Almost like paint-by-number artwork. That is the scene I need to remember when I’m out shoveling later and muttering words best left unwritten about winter storms in Minnesota.

© Copyright 2023 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Dealing with derailed plans & loss at Christmas December 26, 2022

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This photo, taken along Minnesota Highway 30 in southwestern Minnesota in January 2010, illustrates how the wind blows snow across the land. Conditions were worse, much worse, in the recent blizzard. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo January 2010)

SATURDAY MORNING I OPENED the blinds to a winter landscape awash in brilliant sunlight. That’s not particularly unusual for December in Minnesota. But what proved different were the two pillars of light flanking the sun with a rainbow arcing between. Sun dogs glared stronger than the center sun and I couldn’t stop looking at the scene.

I’m no scientist or weather person, but the sun dogs and rainbow have something to do with the frigid temps and ice crystals in the atmosphere. They lasted for hours, a true gift on a morning when I welcomed brightness in my day.

Landing at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo)

PLANS UPENDED BY WINTER STORM

I needed that beautiful light in the midst of Christmas plans that didn’t quite unfold as hoped. I expect many of you experienced the same as this massive winter storm moved from state to state. My son, whom I haven’t seen in a year, had to rebook his canceled flight from Indianapolis. His plane lands early this evening at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and he arrives here Tuesday morning with his oldest sister and her family. I cannot wait to enfold him in a tight, lingering hug.

Yesterday Randy and I drove the 35 minutes to our eldest daughter’s house for a holiday meal and time together with the four of them, including our two precious grandchildren. We played space BINGO and watched a little artist paint and gave lots of hugs and then celebrated Christmas with a zoom call after our holiday meal. I am thankful for such technology bringing my family together from Minnesota to Wisconsin to Indiana.

For many families, Christmas together never happened, and not just because of canceled flights. All of southwestern (my home area on the prairie) and south central Minnesota were basically shut down by the multi-day blizzard. More than 2,000 miles of roadway were closed, including interstates. Snow gates were dropped into place, blocking access. The Minnesota National Guard was called up to rescue stranded motorists, who shouldn’t have been out in a storm that packed up to 40 mph winds whipping snow into concrete-hard drifts. I understand a blizzard, having grown up on the prairie. Not everyone does.

(Minnesota Prairie Roots edited file photo used for illustration only)

MISSING FAMILY/MOM

I understand the strong yearning to be with family. Being separated from loved ones during the holidays is simply emotionally challenging. I am sort of used to it given only one of my three adult children remains in Minnesota. But the missing never goes away.

This year brought an added dimension of missing. Missing Mom, my first Christmas without her. I thought I was doing fine until the final song at our Christmas Day morning worship service. Only moments earlier, a woman pushed her elderly father to the front of the church to receive Holy Communion. In that moment, my mind flashed to my wheelchair-bound mom. Within minutes, I was crying, trying not to sob. I removed my glasses, wiped the gush of tears with the backs of my hands. I felt Randy’s hand on my back, a loving and comforting gesture.

Later that evening, my friend Gretchen texted asking for prayers. Her mom died unexpectedly earlier in the day. After Christmas Day morning worship. After lunch and gift-opening at her sister’s house in Washington. Now Gretchen and her family are scrambling to book flights from southwestern Minnesota. This broke my heart. To lose one’s mama is hard enough. But to lose her on Christmas Day, even harder. My friend Beth Ann experienced the same two years ago. Christmas will now forever be connected to loss. Yet, Gretchen and Beth Ann are both strong women of faith. Like me, they know we will see our moms again. Together. Just not now.

TELL ME: Are you grieving this holiday season? Did your Christmas plans change due to weather? What’s the weather been like in your area? I’d like to hear your stories on any/all of these topics.

© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Winter storm delays Christmas homecomings for many December 21, 2022

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This message hangs on a vintage dresser in my dining room, the mirror reflecting an oil painting of a winter scene by my father-in-law, Tom Helbling. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo December 2022)

I’ll be home for Christmas; you can plan on me…please have snow…

Well, not exactly, Bing (Crosby). You might not get home to see that snow, not the way the forecast is looking. Blizzard conditions are predicted here in Minnesota and throughout the Midwest for Thursday into Friday. That will affect land and air travel, disrupting many homecomings.

A close-up from Tom’s painting shows family members arriving for Christmas via sleigh. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo)

I realize a snowy landscape seems picturesque and lovely and, oh, so holiday-ish in a song. But if you’re traveling or waiting for loved ones to arrive (like I am), then I’d rather not see new-fallen snow accompanied by frigid temps and strong winds.

Waiting at the door to welcome loved ones home for Christmas. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo)

Dreams of my son being in Minnesota for Christmas are just that, a dream. The predicted winter storm changed everything. Now he will arrive the day after. I’ll take it. A year has passed since I’ve seen Caleb and to not see him at all would have been really really difficult for this mom. His stay will be shorter than planned, only a few days.

It took until 3:30 pm CST Tuesday for Delta to finally issue an advisory allowing passengers to rebook flights. That caused unnecessary angst within my family and I expect many others. United and American had those advisories in place much earlier.

Tom Helbling’s artistic version of a Christmas homecoming. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo)

In the end, I feel thankful that my son can still travel to Minnesota. He may not be home for Christmas. But he will find plenty of snow when he does arrive. So there you go, Bing.

© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Dangerously cold in Minnesota, but also beautiful December 20, 2022

Once the grey skies broke, the snow-layered trees looked especially stunning against the cobalt sky. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo December 2022)

THE LANDSCAPE HERE IN MINNESOTA the past week has been undeniably beautiful—a winter wonderland. It’s absolutely stunning with snow layered upon trees and rooftops, creating scenes that could grace any Christmas card. I found myself many times just pausing at a window to admire the beauty of the outdoors.

This image shows snow falling in my backyard last week. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo December 2022)

But four consecutive days of snowfall also brought issues. The heavy snow snapped branches and power lines leaving many, especially in the Brainerd lakes area of central Minnesota, without power. Snow slicked roads, leading to crashes. And for all of us, no matter where we live in the state, all that snow meant snow removal.

The shovels we use to remove snow, all lined up against our house. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo December 2021)

We have a snowblower, albeit massive and ancient, and three different types of shovels. The scoop shovel is good for tossing large quantities of snow, especially the rock-like chunks at the end of the driveway. The wide plastic shovel works well for pushing. And the wide metal shovel serves as an oversized ice scraper to expose bare concrete. I often shovel since I can’t manage the snowblower.

I zoomed in on this branch on a tree in my neighbor’s yard last week. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo December 2022)

Weather forecasters warned us to get the snow off sidewalks and driveways without delay. Why? Cold air has moved in. And it’s only going to get worse. The National Weather Service is warning of “life-threatening conditions possible Thursday and Friday with dangerously cold wind chills (into the minus 30s) and blizzard conditions from blowing snow.” So, yeah, not good. Our son is scheduled to fly in from Indiana on Thursday evening. Whether that happens remains to be seen. I don’t even want to consider the possibility of him not getting here for Christmas.

The snow boots I wear are warm, practical and fashionable. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo October 2020)

When the NWS starts tossing out words like wind chill, frostbite and hypothermia, we Minnesotans recognize the need to stock winter survival kits in our vehicles, dress in layers, don our waterproof boots, wear mittens (not gloves) and more.

Snow layered every branch, every twig in this image taken last week. Beautiful. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo December 2022)

When lines of ice edge door thresholds in our house, I block the bottoms of exterior doors with rag rugs to seal cold air entry points. When cold ices windows on the second level, well, there’s not much I can do.

Already I feel the chill in our old house. I’ve added an extra blanket to our bed. In the morning, I pull my clothes from a cold closet to warm for awhile before getting dressed for the day.

I especially love the contrast of snow against blue sky. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo December 2022)

As I write, light snow falls. A notice on my computer screen warns of dropping temps. Highs later this week will not even reach above zero as “dangerously cold Arctic air” moves into Minnesota, just in time for Christmas.

© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

A blizzard of loss & grief February 11, 2022

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A winter storm creates near white-out conditions along Minnesota State Highway 19 north of my hometown of Vesta in southwestern Minnesota in January 2013. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo January 2013)

LOSS STORMS INTO THIS WINTER of 2022 like an old-fashioned Minnesota blizzard. The snow just keeps falling. The wind keeps whipping. Powdery snow blows into rock hard drifts that edge roadways, fill ditches, encircle homes. Visibility is limited. Travel conditions poor. Bitter cold settles in and I feel as if this storm will never end.

Wind chimes from my friend Beth Ann in North Carolina honor my mom. Beth Ann lost her mom just over a year ago and has been a great support to me. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo February 2022)

Such has been the beginning of the new year, when deaths within my circle defined recent weeks. First, my mom died on January 13. Two days later, my cousin Randy, 50, died unexpectedly. Last week my cousin Kevin’s stepson, Dan, 43, also died unexpectedly. And then, on Tuesday, my friend Patty died.

Just like a winter storm, we must all deal with loss and grief. (Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo of Randy snowblowing our driveway)

It’s a lot at once—this loss, this grief.

Ruth, a friend from Pittsburgh, knit this beautiful prayer/comfort shawl from the softest acrylic yarn fittingly labeled CELESTIAL STRIPES. These are in hues my mom would have liked. Each time I wrap this shawl around my shoulders, I feel Ruth’s love in the warmth and texture. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo February 2022)

Anyone who’s experienced a Minnesota blizzard understands the analogy. Yet, blizzards always end. We shovel and snow-blow our way out of snow-clogged driveways. We clear the walks and steps. And we get on with life, despite the storm. Yet, we remember.

My friend Mandy colored this beautiful faith-based art for me. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo February 2022)

I am digging myself out of a blizzard now, working through the drifts of grief. But I’ve never felt alone in this storm. First, as a woman of faith, I’ve felt God’s presence, his strong hand upon the snow shovel. I’ve heard his encouraging voice in the comforting words of pastors shared at these recent funerals (my mom’s attended in-person, the others virtually).

I’ve appreciated the nearly 60 sympathy cards which have landed in my mailbox. I’ve read and reread the encouraging words and notes. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo February 2022)

I’ve experienced, too, the support of family and friends who’ve reached out with cards, personal notes, calls, emails, texts, memorials and other thoughtful gifts. My friend Ruth emailed a particularly touching poem, “We Remember Them” by Sylvan and Rabbi Jack Riemer. Each visually impactful line ends with “We remember them.” I’ve printed the poem and posted it on my fridge.

Assorted shovels used in clearing snow from our property. (Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo December 2021)

I feel incredibly loved, as if an entire neighborhood has showed up with shovels and snowblowers to unclog the driveway, to clear the walk and steps. To help me dig out from this blizzard of loss.

My friend Kathleen from Idaho crafted this beautiful mini altered book honoring my mom and her life. I will share more soon about this book, a comfort to me as I remember my mother. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo February 2022)

There will be days when I feel like hunkering down inside, watching the wind-driven snow pile up, sheltering within my grief. Just like during a blizzard, when going outdoors proves risky.

Inspirational garden art from my sister-in-law Cheryl and family uplifts. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo February 2022)

But winter storms are not forever. Rock hard drifts melt, replaced by the greening earth, new life. The wind calms, stirring peace in summertime breezes. Visibility clears to the window of memories. Roads take us back to places once shared with those we’ve lost. And the bitter cold of death lessens as time passes, as love endures.

© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Happy Easter from snowy southern Minnesota April 12, 2020

My favorite Easter hymn. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

GOOD AFTERNOON and Happy Easter from southeastern Minnesota, where the snow falls thick and fast. The setting appears more Christmas than Easter as snow layers the landscape and slicks roadways. We expect up to eight inches in this winter spring storm.

Nearly everything about this Easter has changed. No in-house worship. No gathering with family. No Easter chocolate purchased (because I avoided crowded grocery stores). And now this snow.

But one thing remains unchanged. Christ is risen! Even though the doors of our houses of worship are closed, we can still celebrate. This morning I awoke at 7 to start my day, preparing my usual bowl of oatmeal and cup of coffee before the 8 a.m. Easter worship service live-streaming from my church, Trinity Lutheran in Faribault. (You can now view the service on YouTube.)

As I watched and listened to the service, I noted the lilies and other spring flowers adorning the sanctuary as usual on Easter. I heard the organ and other music and the joyful voices of selected singers. And I listened to the uplifting Easter message about the resurrected Lord.

 

Eggs dyed with my mom many years ago. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

Afterwards I reflected on Easters past—on my favorite childhood Easter hymn, I Know that My Redeemer Lives; on family gathered. Ham dinners. Easter egg hunts.

And I thought, too, about how, today, I expected to have our three adult children (and spouses) and our grandkids here. We haven’t all been together since Thanksgiving. If the power doesn’t go out in this storm, we’ll connect via video later this afternoon.

 

“I am the resurrection and the life.” A stained glass window in the Trinity Lutheran Church sanctuary, Faribault, MN. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

So much has changed. And yet the essence of Easter remains, as shared in my blog post today for Warner Press. Click here to read that post, “Fear Not This Easter.”

A most blessed Easter to you, dear friends. Stay safe at home. Be well. And know that you are loved.

TELL ME: How are you celebrating this Easter?

Disclaimer: I am paid for my work as Warner Press blog coordinator and blogger.

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

No day of rest on a snowy Sunday in Minnesota February 9, 2020

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A bank sign in Faribault flashes the weather late Saturday afternoon.

 

SATURDAY BROUGHT SUNSHINE and cold temps to Minnesota. Below zero in the morning, up to 20 in the afternoon. But that is manageable when the sun shines. Everything’s better under sunny skies in the depth of winter.

 

The grandkids, ages one and three, play hide-and-seek behind curtains for a short while until Grandma decided that probably wasn’t the best idea. (The parents were gone.)

 

We headed to the north metro to spend time with our eldest and her family, which includes our two darling grandchildren. I think everyone had the same idea to be out and about before the winter storm hit Saturday night. Roads were congested in areas and too many drivers wove in and out of traffic, not bothering to use their signals and cutting in too close. I always wonder, what’s the hurry that you must drive like this?

 

More snow to add to the piles. I took this shot from our driveway.

 

All of that aside, the promised snow arrived and we awoke to about eight inches on the ground Sunday morning. I was tempted to roll over, pull the covers tighter and snuggle in for more sleep when the alarm sounded at 6:45 a.m. But I didn’t.

 

A city of Faribault snowplow clears the street in front of my home.

 

I wondered if we would get out the driveway to make it to the 8 a.m. church service. But the arterial street past our house was already plowed so Randy needed only to gun it out our drive and then plow through the unplowed side street a short distance and we were on our way.

 

The beautiful snowy wooded hillside in our backyard.

 

Church was so empty that we all clumped together in front pews rather than sit in our regular spots. That is so un-Lutheran.

 

Randy starts down the driveway with the snowblower.

 

As any Minnesotan knows, the worst thing is to have the driveway all cleared and then the snowplow plows the end shut with a ridge of snow.

 

Making progress on clearing the driveway of snow.

 

Post worship service found Randy and me back home tackling snow removal—ours and that of a neighbor in her eighties. Randy maneuvers our Noah’s ark vintage snowblower while I shovel.

 

Our assorted shovels stacked in the garage.

 

Today I used all three shovels—the scoop shovel, plastic shovel and metal shovel. All serve a different purpose. Best for throwing. Best for pushing. Best for scraping. I’ve shoveled snow for enough decades to understand the importance of assorted tools.

 

Our driveway, clear of snow. Yeah!

 

Now I’m inside, feeling the ache of shoveling in my back, even if the snow was feather-light. But, hey, the sun is shining again and the snow has moved east into Wisconsin.

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Documentation of why you should stay off rural roads during a winter storm January 19, 2020

Just outside of Faribault Saturday afternoon along Rice County Road 25, this old farmhouse was easily visible during the storm.

 

THE WEATHER IN MINNESOTA has calmed considerably since Saturday when high winds created blizzard and near-blizzard conditions throughout much of the state.

Now we’re dealing with frigid temps, just two degrees above zero mid-morning here in Faribault with an expected high of maybe 10 degrees. Yes, that’s cold, even for those of us who are life-long residents. But we’ve seen much colder, in the double digits sub-zero.

Weather often dominates conversation in Minnesota because it so dramatically affects our lives. Our plans. Our off-work time, especially in the winter when snow removal can seem like a part-time job. But, hey, we choose to live here, right?

 

Visibility was good as we started out on CR 25 Saturday afternoon.

 

And sometimes we make choices that aren’t too smart. Like mine yesterday to venture with Randy into the countryside to check out conditions. Per my post late Saturday afternoon, here are more photos from that short drive east of Faribault and back.

 

Lots of farm sites and rural homes hug the roadway, breaking the wind.

 

The American flag flying straight out shows the strength of Saturday’s wind on a rural site just east of Faribault along CR 25.

 

After we passed this barn on our friends’ farm site, conditions deteriorated.

 

Heading east out of town along Rice County Road 25/197th Street East, conditions were good. Blowing snow was minimal and we could easily see farm sites along the route. But then, as we edged into more open land, with no treelines or farm sites breaking the wind, visibility quickly lessened.

 

We drove into near white-out conditions along CR 25 near the intersection with CR 23.

 

Blowing snow diminished visibility.

 

We found ourselves enveloped in white, white-out conditions is the proper term.

 

Snow blows around low-slung buildings along CR 23.

 

Snowdrifts partially edged and crept onto sections of CR 23.

 

As we continued to drive south on CR 23, blowing snow reduced visibility even more.

 

Yes, I was scared and even asked Randy to turn around and retrace our route. Easier said than done. Instead, he eased onto County Road 23. Blowing snow still limited visibility although I could see near-the-road farm sites in the haze of white. Considerable drifting of snow near and onto the road now concerned me.

 

Snow pushed back from the roadway at the intersection of CR 23 and Minnesota State Highway 60 and photographed from the front passenger side window.

 

By the time we reached Minnesota State Highway 60, I was so ready to be done with this little adventure. Plowed snow banked the intersection. Randy rolled down his window to check for oncoming traffic.

 

Once on Minnesota State Highway 60 heading west, travel improved. More farm sites border this highway than along the county roads.

 

Then, thankfully, as we drove west toward Faribault, with less open space and farm sites breaking the wind, visibility improved.

 

Conditions as we approached Faribault were good, considering what we’d just driven through.

 

Lesson learned: Stay home during a winter storm, especially when you advise others to do so.

© Copyright 2020 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

 

Waiting for the winter storm January 17, 2020

I expect the view from my front window to look like this by this afternoon. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2014.

 

WE ARE ONLY HOURS AWAY here in southeastern Minnesota from a major winter storm expected to drop up to a foot of snow on some parts of our state. In my city of Faribault in Rice County, predictions range from five to nine inches.

No matter how you measure it, it’s still snow that will cause travel problems and which needs to be removed. Oh, joy.

 

This photograph, taken along Minnesota Highway 30 in southwestern Minnesota, shows how the wind drives snow across and onto roadways. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo January 2010.

 

But it’s not just the snow that will create issues. It’s the strong wind accompanying the snow. Winds tomorrow in the southwestern part of the state, my home area, could reach 50 mph. Thus the blizzard warning starting at midnight in that region.

 

While in southwestern Minnesota last weekend, I noticed snow already banking in drifts along drainage ditches, here east of Morgan.

 

I’ve experienced enough winter storms on the prairie to appreciate the seriousness of a blizzard. Reduced visibility creates white-out conditions. Snowdrifts block roads. And those powerful winds plunge the “feels like” temperature into the deadly range when exposed to the elements.

 

Along Minnesota State Highway 19 on the west edge of Redwood Falls, a sign advises motorists to check travel information.

 

Still, winter storm after winter storm, people fail to heed the dangers. In and post storm, the media reports vehicles stranded along roadways (mostly interstates) and motorists rescued. I’ve heard of drivers taking back county roads after GPS directed them there because the interstate was closed. Interstate closure is a pretty clear indication that no one should be on the road.

 

I expect lights on this sign to flash today and tomorrow, closing Minnesota State Highway 19 west of Redwood Falls.

 

Along certain sections of interstate and highways, snow gates are closed to block the roadway when travel becomes difficult, if not impossible. Just last week when traveling through Redwood Falls, I noticed signage indicating Minnesota State Highway 19 is closed when the yellow light on the sign flashes. A second sign advised motorists to check state travel conditions on MN511.org. While I appreciate that Minnesota Department of Transportation tool, I’ve often found it’s not updated enough.

The bottom line is this, though: Common sense should tell us to stay off the roads during a winter storm like the one barreling into Minnesota and elsewhere today. That said, I’ve advised the husband to leave work early for his commute home from Northfield, a 22-minute drive on a typical, non-storm day.

For those of you in the path of the winter storm, stay safe.

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling