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Snowfall passes 50 inches since Monday in Iron County community

Piles of snow dwarf someone trying to clear snow along Oshkosh Avenue in Gile on Thursday. Photo courtesy of Peg Sutherland1 / 3
A city of Montreal, Wis., plow moves snow on Isabel Street in Gile on Thursday after the area received several feet of snow over a few days. (Photo courtesy of Dee Genisot)2 / 3
Furniture on Peg Sutherland's deck in Gile is buried beneath several feet of snow on Thursday. Through 5:30 p.m. Thursday, the community in Iron County had received a little more than 4 feet of snow since Monday morning. (Photo courtesy of Peg Sutherland)3 / 3

As Duluthians moan about the 9.2 inches of snow that’s fallen in the past few days, and some Douglas County residents complain about a foot or more, just think of Peg Sutherland over in Gile.

Sutherland already has recorded more than 50 inches of snow just since Monday.

“It’s amazing. It’s just amazing how much has come so fast,” Sutherland said. “All of this since 8 a.m. Monday morning.”

Conditions have been nearly perfect in recent days to create lake-effect snow along Lake Superior’s South Shore, including in Gile in Iron County. With cold northwest winds blowing across the still-warm surface waters of Lake Superior, moisture from the lake evaporates into the air, then blows on shore, elevates into clouds and — when it gets far enough inland — falls as snow.

Reports of 30-plus inches were common in the snow belt by Friday, with Hurley at 38 inches.

Gile, however, topped the list at 50.1 inches as of 7 a.m. Friday. Only a switch to west and southwest winds for Friday and the weekend will turn off the lake’s snow machine.

“Twenty-inchers are pretty common. But we get those usually with a few days in between to catch up. Getting this much in one storm, without it stopping, is really unusual even for us,” Sutherland said.

Sutherland frequently is the queen of lake effect snowfall, and Gile appears to be perfectly situated — by elevation and distance from the lake — to receive the absolute most out of every lake-effect event. Nearby hills seem to scour the sky of snow that falls on the hamlet of Gile, which is a bit lower along the Gile Flowage, an old sawmill location.

Gile isn’t even a town really, but a neighborhood of the city of Montreal.

Gile is only a few miles from Hurley, Ironwood and Saxon — other weather reporting stations that receive huge dollops of snow. But Gile often seems to top the list, sometimes by several more inches than nearby stations.

Sutherland’s home may in fact be in the snowiest place in the Northland region that’s covered by the National Weather Service in Duluth. Sutherland routinely reports 200-plus inches of snow every year, more than double the 90 inches or so Duluth receives on average each winter.

“We’ve had some winters with 300 inches,” Sutherland said. “But this is about the most we’ve had at one time.”

She uses a tractor with a snowblower head on it to clear her driveway. And like everyone else in the snow belt, she plows a lot more area than needed in November to make sure there’s room to put all that snow by February.

“There hasn’t been that much wind and the plows have been keeping up. All the roads are open now,” Sutherland said But at times this week she said snow squalls have come through virtually shutting down visibility, snowing two inches or more per hour.

“You just get your driveway done and you have to go back out and do it again. I finally got 30 inches or so off my deck and now there’s another foot or foot-and-a-half out there again,” she said. “It’s like late-December amounts of snow on the ground. This is like three normal snowstorms for us.”

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