Monday, January 3, 2011

Menacing Minnesota Weather

Minnesota weather can be harsh wherever you are in the state. The feet of snow that we've had in Minneapolis have caused serious winter problems. Icy roads are a problem wherever you go and anywhere in the state you risk getting stuck in a ditch you can't get out of.

But there's something that's incredibly unique, amazing, scary and powerful about the blizzard winds on the open prairies of northwestern Minnesota.

Our holiday travels were ambitious this year. We left for Fargo on the 24th and met Calhoun's parents in Fargo for the 5:30 Christmas Eve Service then headed to his hometown, 40 miles north of the Fargo/Moorhead area. We lounged around there for a few days and on the 28th headed across the state to Tofte, Minnesota to spend a few days with friends at a cabin. The weather was beautiful for our travel day and our whole day in Tofte was spent cross country skiing. Absolutely amazing Minnesota winter weather.

But the weather on the 30th was the stuff that travel nightmares are made of. We drove away from Lake Superior and straight into a front bringing rain, freezing rain, sleet, then snow. Not so good for my little Toyota with the old tires. Thank goodness Calhoun was driving, because other people do stupid stuff in bad weather and he did a great job of keeping us out of the ditch. We decided it was better to stay under the cover of the wooded areas of Minnesota rather than risk the weather on the open plains, so we booked a hotel in Grand Rapids and ate at Sammy's Pizza.
On the 31st we headed west again. No cover, just snow and incredible winds. Apparently one of the primary concerns on the plains, during a blizzard, are snow drifts. The winds are so strong that they will cause snow drifts to accumulate on the road, and swerving on icy roads is bad and blowing through a snow drift that's larger than it looks is also bad. It is also bad to drive when you can't see very far ahead of you. Really, we were probably idiots to be out on the road those days, but we needed to get home to plan for our next trip so, slowly but surely, we made it west across the state and finally back to Calhoun's parents house, where the weather conditions were so poor that Sogn didn't even come to the end of the driveway to greet us!

Eventually we arrived home safely. But a trip that we anticipated taking 12 driving hours (Tofte --> Small Town --> Minneapolis) ended up taking about twenty four hours. I have since realized that the winter emergency kit should also include an extra $200 for hotel and food should the need arise!

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