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Alice Findley uses a pink National Weather Service gauge to measure snow depth at her home five miles north of Two Harbors. Findley reported more than 40 inches of snow during the three-day storm. (Photo courtesy Dan Findley)

Spotter near Two Harbors records more than 3 feet of snow

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When Alice Findley used her official National Weather Service snow gauge to take a measurement outside her house Wednesday afternoon, the neon-pink yardstick disappeared into the white.

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"It's only 36 inches long and we had 39 inches of snow on the ground," Findley said with a chuckle.

Findley is a Weather Service snow reporter who lives in the woods five miles north of Two Harbors. Her report for the three-day storm as of 6 p.m. Wednesday was 42 inches, with snow still falling.

That's about double most snow reports from across the Northland.

"I love it. I love the snow," she told the News Tribune.

That's a good thing because Findley lives in one of the snowiest places in Minnesota. She lives high on top of the big hill that leads away from Lake Superior. That extra altitude helps squeeze more snow out of the clouds during typical passing storms, and the topography of specific areas can make a difference.

The hill also is the perfect place for lake-effect snow. That's snow produced by moisture lifting out of the relatively warm lake, cooling in the air and then falling back to Earth as it blows on shore.

It hits Findley's area during south, east and even northeast winds.

Lake-effect snow can happen on its own or, as was the case this week, it can enhance a storm moving across the region.

Minnesota's highest seasonal snow totals generally run along the North Shore highlands, from roughly Proctor, through hilltop Duluth, past Findley's home, up to Wolf Ridge near Finland and ending at about the Gunflint Trail uphill from Grand Marais.

Steve Gohde, the Weather Service coordinator for snow reporters in the Duluth region, said Findley may have been recording some drifting of snow as well as falling snow, accounting for her unusually high total. He noted another weather reporter just two miles away was more than a foot less.

But Findley said she took multiple readings at various locations in her yard and that the snow was deeper than the measuring stick in all locations.

Dan Miller, science and operations manager for the National Weather Service in Duluth, said Findley is smack in the middle of that North Shore highlands snow belt.

"I'm not sure if this storm total is actually that high or not. But, either way, it's clear there are going to be some close to three-foot totals along that ridge and, within that area, there are always some favored areas that will get more," Miller said. "But moose don't send in snow reports, so we don't get good numbers for the more remote areas up there. We don't know how many of those favored areas there are."

Alice and husband Dan are retired but don't head south for winter. They love to snowshoe and ski, and they love keeping track of all that snow for the Weather Service.

Before moving to their home two years ago, they reported to the Weather Service for their home along the Gunflint Trail.

"We had big storms there, too. Maybe not quite this big, Alice said Wednesday. "But one year, I think it was 2004, we had a total of 250 inches for the winter."

That's nearly 21 feet of snow.

"It's just beautiful out there," she said. "But we don't need that much again."

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