Snow keeps coming down
January 13, 2023
There is a lot of snow out there this winter. How much? It depends on where you are. While Duluth is breaking - or on the cusp of - all kinds of snowfall records for December and the season, areas in Carlton County are not quite setting records. But the snowfall we've had is far above normal.
In Cloquet, the average snowfall in December is about 16 inches. Last month, there was nearly 30 inches of snow recorded in the city. That is the highest of area measurements. A recording 3 miles northeast of Cloquet came in at 27.6 inches. Northeast of Carlton, 25.6 inches fell in the month. Moose Lake had 28 inches.
Duluth set a record for monthly snowfall in December by just over an inch at 44.7.
The National Weather Service office in Duluth has been posting seemingly breathless posts to its social media accounts as the snow piles up.
"After a record-breaking December, our office in Duluth is currently at a total of 68.1 inches of snowfall this winter," one post on Twitter read. "Normal seasonal snowfall up to (Jan. 7) is 39.5 inches. How long would it take for us to get back to normal? If no additional snow fell, we wouldn't reach normal until March 2."
Snowfall since an inch fell in October came in at 47 inches in Cloquet by Jan. 11, just 20 inches shy of the average snowfall for the year. It's virtually guaranteed - after just the second week of January - that Cloquet will see seasonal snowfall far above normal. It was snowing Wednesday, with a few more inches to add to the total. Hitting the monthly averages alone would bring about 30 more inches of snow to Cloquet, making the seasonal total of 77 inches, far above the snowfalls of recent years and 11 inches above the all-time average.
The record for snowfall in one year in Cloquet is 114 inches, recorded in 1950-51. That December, Duluth set its mark for the month at 43.3 inches, the 72-year-old record that was surpassed two weeks ago.
The closest Cloquet seasonal total to 1951 was the 111 inches that fell in the winter of 2013-14. That year, 66 inches fell from just February through April. The city sat at 45 inches by the end of January 2014, less than has been recorded this year through Jan. 11.
In 1964-65, 106 inches fell in Cloquet.
In the eight winters since that snowy 2014, average snowfall in Cloquet has been 58 inches, below the average of 66. Beginning with the 2019-20 season, snowfalls the past three years have been 71, 54, and 66 inches.
Despite more snow and a possible new record for the city, it could always be worse, right? Consider that high snow mark set in 1951 at 114 inches. The year before, 1949-50, 108.5 inches fell. The year after the record was set, 1951-52, 95 inches fell. That's one snowy trifecta.
Any year with higher-than-average snowfall can bring fears of spring flooding. That is exactly what happened across Minnesota in 1951 and 2014 with record or near-record snowfalls across the state.
We came across some "silver lining" words from columnist Gretchen Lamberton in the May 18, 1951, issue of the Winona Republican-Herald, as she marveled at spring blossoms decorating the landscape in that southeastern Minnesota city:
"The country has never looked as absolutely beautiful as it has this spring," she wrote. "I'm not alone in thinking so; many people have remarked about it. But I got to wondering if it wasn't just that the winter has been so diabolical that everybody's doubly appreciative of spring this year.
"Along about the third snow in April I began to have the uneasy feeling: Supposing that this is the year that spring doesn't come. Supposing the Good Lord is just plum fed up with the wicked foolishments of the world and just decided to withhold spring.
"It was a disquieting thought that must have occurred to a good many people. And so, after an eternity of winter, when this past lovely week of spring finally did arrive, it seemed like the most gorgeous spring in all of history."
Snowfall statistics were compiled from the local National Weather Service data on a wonky but useful, if you can figure it out, website at https://scacis.rcc-acis.org.