After nearly 2 feet of snow was dumped on Duluth in less than 24 hours over the weekend, many of the city's streets are still covered with snow.
City plows have been working to clear main roads since Sunday and began plowing residential roads on Monday, but there have been some difficulties, said Kate Van Daele, public information officer for the city of Duluth.
“Because of how many cars or snowmobiles that traveled (on the roads) when we had issued a no-travel advisory, our plow trucks actually can’t make it into some residential streets because of how compact the snow is,” she said. “So one of the reasons that it is taking longer to get into neighborhoods is because we have to send in a grader and a plow truck to follow it. Normally we would just have plow trucks going through neighborhoods.”
Van Daele said the city has 18 graders and 20 plows available for use and the city’s goal is to have 30 or more pieces of equipment at a time on the roads between 2 a.m. and 6 p.m. each day with a second shift of crews plowing overnight. Plow drivers have been working 12- to 16-hour shifts each day. Unfortunately, the city is down four graders after having mechanical issues due to the conditions being encountered. Van Daele said two graders broke down Sunday and two more on Monday.
“We just ask for the public's patience as we will continue to get through residential streets. Unfortunately, we know that we will not be able to hit all residential streets (Monday),” she said. “Once residential streets are done, we will start working on plowing alleys.”
Plows have also been encountering many stuck and abandoned vehicles on residential streets, making snow removal even more difficult by requiring plows to try and get around the vehicles and then come back at a different time to finish plowing, Van Daele said.
“So if you do get your car stuck, please either call some friends to help shovel it out or call a tow truck,” she said.
Van Daele said the fact it was a holiday weekend didn’t affect the snow removal process.
“This is the ninth largest two-day snowstorm that we’ve had, so regardless of whether it happened over a holiday or not, I think these circumstances would have been the same,” she said. “When you have this much snow that gets dropped at once, it's really difficult to plow the 530 miles that we maintain.”
Some neighborhoods in the city have been lucky enough to see a plow come down their road, including the Piedmont neighborhood where Wendi Austin-Bradbury lives. Austin-Bradbury lives on Florence Avenue in Piedmont and said there are only six houses on the road, so she wasn’t expecting a plow in her neighborhood so soon.
“I wanted to bring him a cookie, but I was too short to reach his window and probably would have been buried by the snow, so I just yelled thank you,” Austin-Bradbury said.
Austin-Bradbury said that she and her family have been stuck at home since 5 p.m. Saturday until the plow came through at noon Monday.
“We had about 4-foot drifts down our short street. (The plow driver) had to back up and push forward about 15 times to make it down our street,” she said. “To get this much snow in less than 24 hours is crazy, but hey, we live in Minnesota.”
Many Lakeside residents stepped up to help clear alleys and driveways while waiting for plows to clear side streets.
Mike Stemper and Tom Gavin knew many people wouldn’t be able to access their garages in the alley between Pitt and Jay streets. Before plows even started clearing the avenues Sunday morning, the two began clearing the alley with snow blowers. The pair worked from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. to clear the alley, and Stemper was back at it Monday morning to help make sure his neighbors could get to their garages.
Stemper said he estimates the weekend storm brought the heaviest snowfall he had seen since the infamous Halloween storm in 1991.
“I was out in that one, too,” Stemper said. “I was towing cars at the time.”
Lynn Kingsbury, a Jay Street resident, had to park on 45th Avenue East after a treacherous drive from St. Paul Sunday and had to be at work early Monday morning. She thought she would still need to clear her driveway when she got off of work, but when she got home Stemper had already come through and made sure she could get in.
“Bless his heart,” she said as Stemper finished up Monday afternoon.
Bob Folger, a lifelong Lakeside resident, was coming out to clear his driveway Monday morning and — like Kingsbury — found his neighbors had already done the job.
“I thought, ‘What a pleasant surprise,’” Folger said. “Tom and Mike are always doing stuff like that. They take care of people. They’re great — they are what you would call desirable neighbors.”