Blizzard leaves a mess
Even though the city of Farmington was still clearing streets on Monday, the 17 to 18 inches of snow that fell over the weekend was more of an inconvenience than anything.
City crews spent a good part of the day clearing the rest of the streets downtown, after putting in many hours trying to clear snow on both Saturday and Sunday.
The weekend was busy for Farmington police officers, too. Over the two days, officers responded to two crashes due to the snow, as well as 21 spinouts or reports of cars getting stuck. Cars weren't the only vehicles to get stuck, either - an ALF/Allina ambulance landed in the ditch at 195th Street and Flagstaff Avenue on Saturday.
"There were lots of vehicles off the road, a couple of crashes. In some cases, people had to leave their vehicles where they were because even tow trucks were getting stuck or there was a six-hour wait," officer Cassie Johnson said. "There was so much going on, it was hard to keep up."
Johnson worked day shifts on both Saturday and Sunday. The police department has one SUV in its vehicle fleet, and it was in use all weekend. The squads, though, were not - there was too much snow for the squads to get through. The Farmington Fire Department lent two four-wheel drive trucks to the police department just so officers respond to the calls that were coming in.
Most of the calls that came in were complaints that the snow plows were not making it through the residential neighborhoods in a timely manner.
Farmington maintenance director Todd Reiten said his crews were doing the best they could, given the circumstances. Heavy snowfall and whiteout conditions on Saturday, and a couple of breakdowns on Sunday made the process difficult.
Plowing crews started around 7 a.m. Saturday, and worked through the afternoon until 6 p.m. They took a break for a few hours -- from a safety standpoint, it's important for plowing crews to get sleep between shifts -- and came back to work at 3 a.m. Sunday. Plowing continued through the day, again wrapping up around 6 p.m. They then resumed plowing at 3 a.m. Monday, and continued through the afternoon. Reiten estimates the plowing crew accumulated 35 to 40 hours over the weekend and into Monday.
Crews swept through parts of the community a couple of times, Reiten said. They wanted to get some of the initial snow off the roads - probably the first five or six inches - then come back through after the snowfall had stopped. Saturday brought conditions that made it difficult for the plow crews to see where they were going.
"You really couldn't even see anything," Reiten said. "When you just keep getting that kind of snow, you go over it once and then it's covered again right away. I think the guys did a great job, considering the amount of snow."
The winds died down on Sunday, but crews still had problems because one truck and one motor grader broke down. One of those vehicles was the one that crews use to clear out the cul-de-sacs in town, so residents in those areas were stuck with snowy roads until Monday.
"These breakdowns were major breakdowns, nothing that we could fix right away," Reiten said.
Several community activities were cancelled over the weekend. The Farmington School District cancelled all of its events planned for Saturday. Dakota City Heritage Village had to cancel its second weekend of Christmas in the Village festivities, as well.
Christmas in the Village was rescheduled from 1 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 19, according to volunteer Pearl Shirley. The blowing snow left deep drifts around the village, though most of those drifts had been cleared by late Sunday afternoon. Getting to the village was more of a concern than the deep snow, she added.
"It was not only the public we were concerned with. It's our volunteers, too. For safety reasons, it was cancelled," Shirley said.
There were other safety issues to consider over the weekend, too. In addition to all of the spinouts and accidents police attended to, there were alarms from a couple of carbon monoxide detectors.
According to a press release from Minnesota Energy Resources, homeowners who have high-efficiency furnaces and water heaters that vent through a wall should keep those vents clear of ice and snow. Buildup of snow or ice could cause the heating system to malfunction or shut off, which is what happened in two Farmington homes over the weekend. In extreme cases, the MERC says, the malfunction could lead to carbon monoxide accumulation in the home.
MERC also asks that customers keep the area around gas meters clear of snow.