First big winter storm of the season hits Lake CountyLake County residents wishing for snow were not let down Wednesday as a winter storm, named “Clarice” by meteorologists, bore down on much of northeastern Minnesota and northwestern Wisconsin.
Lake County residents wishing for snow were not let down Wednesday as a winter storm, named “Clarice” by meteorologists, bore down on much of northeastern Minnesota and northwestern Wisconsin.
While the storm arrived later than expected in the early hours of Wednesday morning once snow arrived, conditions quickly deteriorated. At 10 a.m. Wednesday, the National Weather Service reported winds of about 35 miles per hour in Two Harbors, with gusts up to 48.3 miles per hour. Windy conditions prevailed through most of the afternoon, blowing snow and causing white out conditions with little to no visibility.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation advised drivers to stay off of Highway 61 and Highway 1 in Lake County because of drifting snow, white out conditions, and icy roads. Lake County Sheriff Carey Johnson advised residents not to travel at all if they could help it. He said plow crews were focusing on main routes all day Wednesday, so side roads and rural routes would be nearly impossible to drive on.
Despite the dangerous winter driving conditions, the Lake Superior School District did not immediately cancel classes for Two Harbors and Silver Bay students Wednesday morning. Johnson said he talked with Superintendent Phil Minkkinen about letting students home early after the sheriff made calls to the Lake County Highway Department and heard from concerned residents about getting school children home safely from school.
The decision to continue on with a normal school day was made early Wednesday morning before the winter storm hit Lake County the hardest. But because of the windy, whiteout conditions, classes were called off for the rest of the day Wednesday. Minnehaha Elementary School and Silver Bay schools closed at 1 p.m. and Two Harbors High School closed at 1:30 p.m.
Johnson said he was concerned about buses being able to safely bring children home, especially in white out conditions. He said district busses were equipped with a radio so that bus drivers could communicate with Lake County dispatch if they got stranded in the snow and needed help.
“At this point in time we are concerned with making sure we get these kids home before it gets dark out,” Johnson said.
Johnson said the Sheriff’s Office was busy with calls of vehicles that were stranded in roadways or that drove into the ditch Wednesday morning while drivers made their way to school and work, but by the time the afternoon arrived, he said things had calmed down. There were no injuries from snow-related car accidents as of Wednesday afternoon, according to Johnson.
Meteorologists predicted 6 to 9 inches of snowfall for areas of Lake County near the shore of Lake Superior, while areas away from the lake were expected to see 3 to 6 inches. A trained weather spotter in Silver Bay reported at 1:20 p.m. Wednesday that 5.5 inches of snow had fallen in the area.