If family and friends can't help, how about a snow dragon?
Last week’s snowstorm dumped more than a foot of snow on Carlton County in less than 24 hours, cancelling schools (again) and most of Friday morning for a lot of people who had to dig out of the heavy snow before they could go anywhere.
For those who couldn’t manage on their own, there were friends or family. Like Carey Blinn, who walked her snowblower from 12th Street in Cloquet to her mom’s house on Fourth Street, blowing the snow off her mother’s sidewalk, her mother’s neighbor’s sidewalk (where the snow was up to her thighs) and several places in between.
“We’re all in the same boat,” Blinn said. “I like to do what I can to help.”
Cloquet Ford Chrysler owner Alan Birman is done moving snow all over his lot and all over town.
Instead, he’s calling in a dragon — a Snow Dragon 900.
Starting Wednesday afternoon, with the assistance of AJ Jutila’s Snowmen Company, Birman plans to melt all the snow now piled up all over his car dealership.
“The Snow Dragon can melt 30 tons of snow in one hour,” Birman said. “That’s 60,000 pounds of water, or 20 dump trucks worth of snow, down the drain.”
It’s an environmentally friendly way to dispose of all the excess snow, the businessman noted, explaining that the machine — which looks like a sea container on wheels — uses a 9-million BTU diesel furnace to heat water inside to 1200 degrees F. Workers use a loader to dump buckets of snow into the machine, which uses sprayers mounted at the top of the vat to spray downward and melt the snow to a temperature of about 90 degrees. A hose running from the bottom of the dragon carries the melted snow to the storm drains and away.
Birman and Jutila invited a number of businesses as well as folks from the city of Cloquet — which has filled up most of its usual snow dumping grounds — and area school districts to come and watch the Snow Dragon in action, hoping that other businesses and organizations will decide to utilize the machine, which Jutila is leasing for a month and can transport to different sites. Birman said it costs $1,000 for an hour of snow melting.
“It’s a little less expensive than using dump trucks,” he said, “but it’s a lot easier on the roads and we don’t have any place to put the stuff anyway.
Like many homes and businesses in the Northland — including the Miller Hill Mall in Duluth, the Pine Journal office and the Fond du Lac Ojibwe school gymnasium — Birman has also been dealing with massive amounts of snow on the roof of his business, which caused the roof to leak.
At one point, he had a 12-foot drift on the roof of the Cloquet Ford Chrysler building.
“I had to use the Bobcat to lift the guys and a snowblower up there,” Birman said, explaining that the thick snow cover acted like a “warm cuddly blanket of white” and trapped the heat from the building between the snow and the roof, causing the bottom layer of snow to melt into standing water on his roof.
“Once the guys cut an eight-foot swath from one end of the roof to another, the water rushed out and the cold air rushed in,” he said. “Everything froze again and the dripping stopped.
“For now, anyway,” he added, noting that average temperatures for the end of February are usually closer to 30 degrees than zero degrees. “It’s just been an extreme winter.”