BEMIDJI – Residents, businesses and road crews spent Monday digging out from beneath a mammoth winter storm that dumped a foot or more of snow on the region.
“We’re buried with ornery people,” Beryl Wernberg, the Beltrami County Emergency Management director, said mid-Monday afternoon. “People need to be patient... It’s going to be a while to clear the roads.”
The impatience came after a two-day storm dumped the season’s largest snowfall on the area, including 16 inches in Bemidji.
Totals elsewhere proved that digging out would be a widespread issue: Becida received 17 inches, Blackduck 13 inches and Bagley 12 inches of new snow during the two days ending at 11:55 a.m. Monday, according to the National Weather Service in Grand Forks.
The deep snow prompted nearly all schools throughout the region to delay or cancel classes Monday. Many businesses opened late.
The previous evening, after much of the snow had fallen, road crews halted efforts to clear the region highways after several hours plowing major routes.
“You just don’t move 16 inches of snow in an hour,” Wernberg said.
Late last week, the weather service issued a winter storm watch, and upgraded its forecast to a warning by Saturday afternoon. By Sunday, the state’s Transportation Department advised no travel for northwest Minnesota, and numerous motorists found their vehicles stuck in snow along roadways.
Those stranded vehicles made plowing roadways extremely difficult, officials said.
The snowfall also made work difficult for first responders.
Bemidji Fire Chief Dave Hoefer said getting to calls and back to the fire hall was difficult. At one point, officials talked about keeping a plow truck on hand to head out on fire calls and clear roads for firefighters.
Earlier Sunday evening, two fire trucks were stuck while on a call to Northern Township, Hoefer said.
Firefighters were able to walk to the fire call, which turned into more of a precautionary visit.
The deep snow can make getting to calls difficult, but it also presents issues on scene and accessing hydrants, he said.
“The deeper the snow, the more challenging it is,” said Hoefer, adding there was one significant upside to the recent heavy snowfall.
“A few weeks ago, we were looking at an early wildland fire season.”