News Flash

Wright County News

Posted on: December 19, 2023

Brown Christmas A Far Cry From the 2022-23 Snow Season

Last winter, the Wright County Highway Department’s snowplow crews were pushed to the edge. Between the first snow in late-October and the last snow in early April, there were 84 snow/ice events that had plows on the roads. It required 118,436 gallons of liquid de-icer, 119,437 miles of roads treated or plowed and 12,399 tons of salt that was dropped to melt snow and ice on the roads.

Highway Department Maintenance Superintendent Nate Helgeson said, there was only one other winter he could remember that came even close to the frequency of snowstorms in the winter of 2022-23.

“The 2022-23 winter season and the 2013-14 season were the winters for snow and ice that I can remember,” Helgeson said. “It seemed like we could never stay ahead of it. We’d get a storm that had wet snow because the temperatures always seemed to be at about the freezing mark and once we got all the snow from that storm cleared, another storm would come right on top of it.”

The number of snow events and the snow totals were staggering – setting records across the state. While there isn’t a National Weather Service site in Wright County that keeps data on temperatures and precipitation totals, Helgeson said it wasn’t difficult to come up with a pretty accurate estimate of the winter of our discontent.

“We don’t have an official site in Wright County that measures snow, but we’re in between the Twin Cities and St. Cloud,” Helgeson said. “St. Cloud set a record last year (with 88 inches of snow) and the Twin Cities had the third-highest total (with 90 inches). My best guess would be that, because we’re in between, we got about the same amount.”

Between Nov. 1, 2022 and Jan. 1, 2023, plow crews were out on the roads for 28 of 61 days. So far this snow season? A total of three. Late-October brought the only countywide snow event. The Highway Department had eight trucks out last Saturday (Dec. 16) north and west of Annandale that got a couple inches of wet snow before it turned over to freezing rain east of Annandale. Crews also treated the county highway system as a precautionary measure because of freezing fog Saturday night. Other than that, it has been smooth sailing for drivers – both in passenger vehicles and snowplows.

Depending on who you ask, the frequency of a brown Christmas varies. A tweet by the National Weather Service Twin Cities says this year would be the seventh brown Christmas since 2000 at MSP International Airport, but other lifelong residents claim they’ve only seen a handful in their lifetimes. Whether it’s making history or not, a year that started with so much snow will likely end with none.

“I don’t see how we don’t have a brown Christmas,” Helgeson said. “We’re supposed to get some precipitation heading into the weekend, but the temperatures are going to be above freezing so if we get anything, it will probably be rain and if any snow does fall, it will probably melt when it hits the ground. Our biggest concern in winter is keeping the roads safe for those who have to drive in all weather. Not having snow has helped that a lot.”

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