Carlton County digs out after blizzard

120519.N.PJ.WEATHER stuck truck cr .jpg
Traffic crawls past a truck that slid off of Highway 33 in Cloquet on Monday, December 2. Jamie Lund/Pine Journal

Carlton County residents were still shoveling driveways, uncovering vehicles and some were waiting for roads to be plowed Monday, Dec. 2.

By the evening of Saturday, Nov. 30, most residents were hunkered down inside as the blizzard raged outside. Every now and then, the sound of a snowmobile going past punctuated the sound of the wind whipping.

Many places in the county received about 20 inches of snow in 24 hours. Businesses closed early across the Northland.

Local law enforcement agencies and county and city snow removals kept busy.

‘We responded to 49 incidents from Friday evening to Sunday morning,” Cloquet Area Fire District Chief Kevin Schroeder said. “They ranged from feeling ill, gas leaks, CO poisoning, to vehicle accidents and everything in between. We had tremendous issues getting around and were assisted by numerous plow crews and our first responders in rural areas.”


Residents should remember to clear their furnace vents and gas meters as well as keep the fire hydrants cleared.

Cloquet plows cleared about 77 miles of roads, 5 miles of alleys and multiple public parking lots.

“Over the holiday/weekend our crew logged 440 hours between 17 different staff members. Sunday was a 16-hour day for most of the staff,” Cloquet Engineer Caleb Peterson said. “This event was an emergency response but for safety reasons 12-16 hours is about the most our operators can work over a 24-hour period. We had 29 instances where a plow was stuck to the point of towing. We pulled the trucks out with our own staff using heavy equipment and a chain.”

Cloquet had a motor grader equipped with a V-plow make the first pass down each street. It was followed by the trucks, who widened the roads as much as possible.

“Even then we were unable to use the truck mounted wings as the weight of the snow would spin the truck due to limited traction,” Peterson said.

Carlton County plowed about 750 miles of road since the first storm hit the area Wednesday, Nov. 27.

“Wednesday was a pretty good storm, too,” said Rick Norrgard, maintenance supervisor for the Carlton County Transportation Department. “We put in a 15-hour day getting the roads ready for Thanksgiving travel.”

The county had all 12 plow trucks that also drop sand as well as their five graders operating Saturday and Sunday. They also had mechanics and other support staff working the weekend.



The heavy vehicles had issues on dead-end and township roads due to lack of frost in the ground and no place to turn around. They ended up stuck several times and had to be pulled out to continue plowing.

“It was slippery, wet snow so they couldn't get traction,” Norrgard said. “It was a difficult, tough storm.”

He stressed everyone worked hard to clear the snow and keep plows on the road. The worked six to seven hours Saturday until visibility dropped from the snow and wind.

Sunday morning, the plow drivers were challenged by abandoned cars along the roadways.

“Our last driver came in about 8 p.m. Sunday,” Norrgard said.

Norrgard reminds residents it's illegal to plow their snow out of the driveway into the snow banks across the road. It also causes problems for the plow drivers. Besides making the snowpiles higher, it often freezes into the road and they can't move it.

About 200 Carlton residents had about a 10-hour power outage until about 7:30 p.m. Sunday. A tree fell on a powerline on County Road 1 in Wrenshall and resulted in a fire.


Cloquet Police Department also kept busy. They answered about 35 calls from Nov. 27 to Monday, including eight vehicles parked on the street causing problems for snow removal, 10 stuck on the road and 10 in ditches and several other calls.

By Tuesday, many main roads are mostly clear of snow. Downtown Cloquet no longer feels like driving on several blocks of railroad tracks.

“At this point, all the streets and alleys should be open and passable,” Peterson said. “Crews are currently working to clean out of the downtown and west end areas, which will be a two-day process. Next steps include hauling piles and clearing sight lines at intersections.”

Snowfall totals as of Sunday

  • 31 inches near Washburn, Wis.
  • 23 inches near Lester Park in Duluth
  • 22 inches in Gary-New Duluth
  • 21.7 inches near Hermantown
  • 21.5 inches near Maple, Wis.
  • 21 inches near Castle Danger
  • 20.8 inches near Two Harbors
  • 20 inches on Madeline Island, Wis.
  • 19.9 inches near Mahtowa
  • 19.5 inches in Cloquet
  • 18 inches in Saginaw
  • 16 inches in Lake Nebagamon, Wis.
Source: National Weather Service spotters

PHOTOS: Photo gallery: Carlton County digs out after blizzard

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