Well, the digging out is just about done. I believe all roads have been opened up and most folks have been able to get their driveways and walkways shoveled out. Most of that happened by about mid week and life got back to normal.
I have to admit, I was totally in the dark as to magnitude of the storm though. Last week as I was typing the journal entry, the heavier snows were soon to let up, but the winds were just starting to get going in earnest. We did have winds of around 25-30 mph with some higher gusts when I was writing last week, but then they shot up to be sustained at 45 mph, with gusts to 68 mph at the airport. The gusts at Stannard Rock out in Lake Superior were regularly exceeding hurricane force and were topping out at around 78-79 mph.
Not long after finishing last weeks entry, I went out to clear snow and this was what I was met with as I stepped out the door. Lots of snow and lots of wind! After firing up Big Red, I headed down to the neighbors to clear them out first. As I was headed down, I knew I was going to be meeting quite a challenge for Big Red, but I also knew that it would be fully up to the challenge. What I wondered was, how many more time would I need to do clean up work from this particular storm?
The drive down to the neighbors was not too bad and although their driveway had well over a foot of snow on it, Big Red was up to the task and did great work clearing the snow. As I was finishing up the driveway, I noticed how tall the banks were. The tractor tosses the snow well into the woods, so this is a good representation of how deep the snow is on the level up here. I also keep a path cleared out to their propane tank so the person that comes to fill it does not have to wade through the deep snow to reach it. Here is a picture of Big Red in the clearing to the propane tank. Keep in mind that there is probably a good 8-10″ of snow that the tractor is sitting on, as I do not clean the snow to the bare ground each time I go in there to clear.
I finished up that driveway and then headed back and took care of our own. I figured that even though the winds were starting to blow at 50 mph+ and would keep up like that for much of the night, it would still help to get the driveways cleaned Sunday night so that Monday’s clearing would not be an all day affair. I did not go over to the rink, figuring it was much more exposed to the winds and drifting and could very well look like nothing had been done by Monday, even if it cleared all the snow off Sunday evening.
Schools were already canceled for Monday by the time I got back in from clearing the snow Sunday evening. So I got myself tucked into bed and the girls stayed up later, as they could sleep in the next day.
By the time I awoke on Monday, the worst of the winds had died off, but it was still blowing pretty good. The snow falling was a pretty light variety, so I decided that I would head out to clear after I was done with my morning work, rather than wait it out any longer. With the exception of the 2-3 foot plow banks, the driveways were not too bad. Around 8-10″ of snow on them, but that is something Big Red can handle even at full speed in second gear. When I got to the rink, it was a different story.
Had it not been for the sliver of the tops of the boards still showing and the light poles, one would have never even known there was an ice rink in there! In some cases, the snow had drifted higher than the boards and was about 4-5 feet deeper than the tops of the boards. It really was a sight to behold, but I was not worried at all about being able to get it done, just wondering how long it would take!
When the snow gets to be around 2-3 feet deep or deeper, I do not take a full pass through it. I will have around 35-65% of the blower chewing into the snow, that way I can keep moving and do not have to keep backing up and then building up a head of momentum, only to come to a halt because of loss of traction. I can’t remember how long it took to clear the rink, but it was not as long as I thought it might. It was quite a bit of fun too. I had headphones on and listened to tunes in the heated cab and just took it one slice at a time. I forgot to take a picture of the rink when I was all finished, but I sure felt happy to have been able to help out and gave Big Red an extra sip of diesel fuel additive when we got back for a job so well done!
A little later in the day, I headed to Calumet to pick up a few things and by that time, the winds had calmed down enough and the snow had pretty much stopped. Our road was in good shape. A bit narrower than it typically is, but still plenty wide for 2 way traffic. The main highway was also in pretty good shape. Again, narrower, with the shoulders still full of snow, but fully passable. Calumet was still in the midst of moving snow around, but they had seemed to get a pretty good handle on things and looked like in another day or so, they would have all of their snow cleaned up. So with all I had seen, I knew it has been one heck of a storm, but that the region was not paralyzed, even just a few hour after it had let up.
Then that evening came the news that schools would be canceled for another day and social media started filling up with pictures of the impacts the snow had brought to the area and my impression of the storm changed with each new photo I looked at. In a way it reminded me of the Fathers Day Flood we had last June. We had only gotten around 2.5″ of rain and absolutely no flooding or issues. Yet, just miles away, it was a completely different story. Complete destruction of roads and some houses. Entire hillsides washed out. The snowmobile/ATV trail between Dollar Bay and Lake Linden had 100 foot deep and 300-400 foot wide washouts on it in many spots.
The difference was that while the snow and winds had caused complete isolation for some, there was no damage. A mess to clean up, but no loss of life or property. Still a full blown epic event though. Even for a place that does not get to rattled by big snows.
Note; the next round of pictures of the storm were taken from social media. I did try and get permission from as many of the owners of the photos, but did not get all, so if you see one of your photos in here and would like it removed, please let me know. – John
The state and local agencies that take care of the snow have a priority list for plowing. I have not seen it, so I can only guess as to how the hierarchy works, but it is pretty clear that the main arteries are the first to be taken care of. At the same time, any side roads that lead to emergency services are opened up. Then roads to main business areas and schools. Then comes the big task of taking care of all the secondary roads. So while traffic was flowing nicely through downtown Houghton, the sidewalks were still clogged with chest deep snow. Same thing in Calumet. Many of these pictures remind me of the old photographs from the 20’s and 30’s of the snow being piled up on the roadways in the cities because they did not have the resources to haul it away. With that in mind, I thought it would be neat to try and digitally change one of the photos to make it look like it was from the “old” days. The funny thing is, some day it will be from the Old Days!
I did come across a picture of them clearing the snow off of main street in Calumet…by hand in some cases!
It seemed like anywhere the wind could move snow to, it did. Areas between buildings were filled in and in some cases to a depth of 12’+. That last shot was from the mall. Here is a shot of the Denali restaurant in Lake Linden from the outside. Here is a shot from the inside! We had dinner there last night and not only was the route to/from the entry door cleared, but enough snow was also cleared from the windows to give a bit of a view.
Here is a shot of the employee entrance to one of the banks up here. No worries for a robbery through that door! A stroll down one of the side streets in Calumet and Laurium would have given you quiet the workout, but also would have given you eye popping sights like this.
Getting back to the mall area, here is a spit image of what things were like in two different spots inside the mall. I am not sure how the person that took those previous shots got in, but it was not through this entry! At least not until it looked like this.
As impressive as the scenes from the urban areas were, it was the rural areas that were even more exposed to the hurricane force winds and all the blowing and drifting of the snow. Not only did folks have to deal with cleaning up their own property, but in some cases had to wait until Wednesday for the road they lived on to get opened up. Worse yet, some saunas were locked tight in snow for several days! The snow up in Lac La Belle is getting so deep, that there is no longer a place to put it if you have to shovel a roof.
One might wonder a bit why, in an area where we get so much snow every year, did it take three days for some roads to be opened up. Well, that is because out in the country, the banks on each side of the road were already at least 6 feet tall. With the 20-30″ of snow that fell and the 50-75 mph winds, all of that fresh snow completely filled in sections of the roads with 6 feet+ snow. In this shot, the drifts were actually closer to 10 feet.
With that kind of snow to move, even the big guns the county has in its arsenal to remove it got it handed to them. There were more than one picture of stuck plows out on the country roads. One might then ask: “What do they do when a plow truck gets stuck?”. They pull out all the stops and send the snow-go. Here is a shot of one of those monsters at work. It is basically a diesel powered 6 foot tall and 6 foot wide snow thrower mounted to the front of an end loader. If they cannot make it through, nothing can!
Here is a shot of the Bootjack Road south of Lake Linden. I can confirm that it was fully open on Friday, as we took a trip down it and all was back to normal.
Up in Copper Harbor, the winds also blew with fury. So much so that friend of ours and their neighbor spent several days just getting their driveway opened up. I can’t even imagine having to tackle something like this with Big Red! To make matters worse, you have to remember exactly where you parked the car so you do not grind it up while moving snow.
The rest of the shots were all taken by myself or Nora. This one is of a building behind the Calumet schools. The top of the roof is around 18 feet and they were busy shoveling the roof off onto a drift that was nearly as high as the roof itself!
Friday evening was the start of the CopperDog 150 dogsled race. They use the snowmobile trails and it nearly came down to the wire to get all of our system opened up in time for the weekend users as well as the teams of dogs/mushers. Nora’s brother and his wife came up to visit and take in the races. We bundled up and headed to Calumet to take in the start. After watching around 6-8 teams go through the starting gate, we jumped into the car and headed down to Lake Linden to watch them cross the Bootjack Rd in a slightly less urban setting. After a few teams went by, we then headed out into the sticks to where we manned a crossing on one of the country roads to see the race from the full rural perspective.
On Saturday, we headed to Copper Harbor to watch the teams come into town and finish the second leg of the three leg race. I have never seen the teams come in and finish a leg or the race, so that was a first time experience for me too! On the way up to the harbor, it was a real experience driving through “the tunnel”. That is the section of Hwy 41 between Delaware and Lake Medora. The banks of snow on either side of the highway were higher than I have ever seen and may ever see again! They were at least 8-10 feet tall and I have no idea how the plow operators can even pull that off! Most of that stretch of Hwy 41 has no shoulder at all, yet they are able to keep the road fully open! When we got to Lake Medora, the highway is fully exposed to the winds that blew Sunday and Monday, so the banks were even higher and had been cut back by a snow-go. You could not even see the lake or the camp sitting on it on the left hand side of the highway.
On the way home, we took highway 26 through Eagle Harbor and Eagle River. That stretch of road was closed for most of Sunday and Monday due to the extreme blowing and drifting of snow, but by Saturday was fully open and a treat to ride on. The big lake is largely frozen now, so we did not find any open water, but the ice mountains created earlier in the season when the water was open and crashing into the shore ice and the drifted snow sure made for some cool scenes to observe.
When we got to Cat Harbor and the road was fully exposed to the wrath of the storm. I got out of the car so Nora could take a picture of me standing next to the bank of snow the snow-go had carved through in order to open up the road. Imagine having to travel for a mile or so with the snow-go eating through the 8 foot deep snow on the level and wondering if you are even still on the road!
Down by the shoreline is where the deer yard up for the winter. The snow is typically not as deep there and they can get around and forage more easily. That is not the case anymore this season, as the snow is as deep or deeper in the yards than it typically is in the deep snow regions of the high country where they came from. Fortunately for some, there are several individuals and organizations that will give the deer some supplemental feed to help them get through the winter. These guys and gals all seemed to be pretty healthy looking and I wish I could have told them that it was March 2nd and soon spring weather will be here. Actually, I have a feeling they already can sense that.
Once home from our trip to the harbor, Gracie thought it would be a good idea to head up onto the shop roof and show the trolls (persons that live below the Mac Bridge) how a Yooper plays in the snow.
So where do I stand with all of this? In snow obviously! but John Dee is not sick of snow yet. I would be fine if we did not get any more and even started to slowly melt it off. Not because I am fully ready for winter to end, but because I really do feel for the folks that are not fortunate enough to have the resources I have to deal with it. I still have plenty more room to put it and the means to do so. For many others, they are out of room. I am not sure what they will be doing if we get a bunch more because many do not have the means to have it moved. The forecast does look rather ominous for later next weekend, as another fairly sizable storm is indicated to arrive late Saturday and continue into Sunday and perhaps bring a foot or more of snow. The winds do not look to be as bad, but could be an issue too. We shall see I guess! Perhaps the army of volunteers that helped out the victims of the flooding in June will re-form and tackle clearing snow for those who have tapped out.
Good night from the Keweenaw..