Storm slowly winding down; more snow expected from Duluth to Silver BayUPDATE: Minnesota Power says power has been restored to customers in Superior as winds and snowfall diminish.
By: John Myers, Duluth News Tribune
Trees fell, power lines fell and a lot of snow fell today especially at the head of Lake Superior where a good old fashioned blizzard blew for much of the day.
Even the Miller Hill Mall closed.
Snow came down at more than an inch an hour most of the morning in Duluth where 9 inches had fallen by 3 p.m. as the storm gradually winds down. Snow had diminished in most areas, although was still falling along the North Shore from Duluth to Grand Marais.
More than 19 inches of snow has fallen in the hardest-hit areas in Northwestern Wisconsin, with more one report of 20 inches from Pine County east of Hinckley. The snow tapers quickly to the north, and only a few inches of new snow is expected north of the Iron Range.
The Duluth Transit Authority canceled all routes except for the main lines along Superior Street and Grand Avenue between Lester Park and New Duluth.
Duluth City Hall is closed, as are courts in Duluth and Carlton, UMD and St. Scholastica, Duluth public and charter schools and dozens of other offices and events. The “Riverdance” performance scheduled for tonight at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center is still on.
Minnesota Power reported dozens of outages this morning across the region, especially in the Twin Ports, including a major outage affecting about 4,500 customers in Superior and scattered outages affecting more than 200 customers, mostly in western Duluth. Most of the outages were small, caused by tree limbs falling on lines, and power was restored in Superior by about 3 p.m.
Some highways remained closed in some spots, including U.S. Highway 2 and 53 in Wisconsin, and the city of Duluth urged no unnecessary travel. The Minnesota Department of Transportation suggests no travel on I-35 south of Duluth and Highway 61 up the North Shore.
“Even if you manage to get in to work today, you might not be able to make it back home,” said Kelly Fleissner, manager of maintenance operations for the city.
Wind gusts this morning hit 65 mph on the Blatnik Bridge, 55 mph at Sky Harbor Airport at the harbor and near 50 mph at Duluth International Airport. Impressive waves were pummeling the Duluth shoreline of Lake Superior where a gale warning was posted.
On South Street in Duluth along Lake Superior, a high-voltage line came down in the wind and fell across a pickup truck in da driveway, sparking a small fire. Firefighters had to wait for electricity to be disconnected before they could douse the smoldering tires. Others trees and lines were down across Duluth and Superior.
Among the students with a snow day was Isabella Keeney, who attends Laura MacArthur Elementary.
“It’s fun and kind of crazy,” she said of the weather. She plans on spending the day shoveling, playing board games and watching movies.
Keeney was at the Spirit Valley Super One grocery shopping with younger brother and father.
“We’re just getting some groceries and then we’ll relax all day,” said Durbin Keeney III. “It’s kind of nice to get a little family time. We just got back from Florida and went from 80 degrees to a blizzard.”
Fleissner said plow operators are doing their best to keep main thoroughfares passable but have not had time to get to many residential streets.
“With this kind of wind and this rate of snow, 1 to 2 inches per hour, there are visibility problems out there. The wind is filling in behind us as we plow. It’s an ongoing battle,” Fleissner said.
The Duluth airport was technically open, but all flights so far today have been canceled.
“Our guys are keeping the runway open but two flights have canceled and I’d guess we may see more,’’ said Brian Ryks, director of Duluth International Airport, who said tonight's flights may make it in and out.
Snow and winds are expected to end later tonight.
News Tribune staff writers Jana Hollingsworth and Steve Kuchera contributed to this report.