Winter storm pounds the Brainerd area with over a foot snow

Snow Adjusted.jpg
A snowplow operates early morning Saturday, Nov. 30, to clear snow at Baxter City Hall. The Brainerd area received about a foot of snow during the Saturday/Sunday storm. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

Snow fell in much of the northeastern portion of the state as the month of November closed and the month of December started — pounding most of the Brainerd lakes area with more than a foot of snow.

Residents in the lakes area began seeing snowfall Friday night, Nov. 29, and it kept on coming down until it tapered off Sunday late morning/early afternoon. The snowfall was wet and heavy; and when the wind began to gust at high rates of speed, visibility was low. Travel was difficult and several area businesses closed early Saturday night, including Lakes 12 Theatre in Baxter. Some area churches also canceled their Sunday services.

Brainerd had 18.1 inches of snow in November — with 11 of those inches falling Saturday and 4.7 inches falling Nov. 26, according to data from the National Weather Service in Duluth. Brainerd’s normal amount of snowfall for November is 8.4 inches and last year, the city saw 4.1 inches of snow. Last year, as of Dec. 1, 2018, Brainerd had 4.6 inches of snow for the season.

Snowplows for the cities, counties and the state worked around the clock to get the roads clear, most taking a break during the overnight Saturday when weather conditions became too difficult to keep up with the nonstop falling snow.

The Crow Wing County Highway Department had 16 trucks out plowing county roads and added two motor graders Sunday to try to get to the icy layer underneath the snow.


Jory Danielson, the county highway maintenance supervisor, said county crews struggled Saturday night as the rate of the snowfall was high. He said crews stayed out as long as they could, taking a break at 8 p.m. Saturday. Crews were back at 4 a.m. Sunday and would work until 6-8 p.m. and then begin again at 5 a.m. Monday, Dec. 2.

“We’ve gone over the county roads multiple times each day,” Danielson said. “Dealing with the snow compaction has been really tough with this two-day winter storm. It’s really glued down on the road, especially with the temperatures dropping.”

Danielson said every road in the county was pretty much hit with a significant amount of snowfall. One difference with the weather conditions, Danielson said, was the wind direction coming out of the north/northeast, basically blowing the snow in a different direction. According to the NWS, wind speeds reached up to 26 mph.

“We should be in good shape by Wednesday,” Danielson said of the road conditions. “Right now we ask the public for their patience as we continue to deal with the compacted snow and to give the snowplows room to work.”

Danielson said county highway employees’ holiday weekend was cut short but they were all prepared and know they have an important job to do.

“It doesn’t always snow Monday through Friday, but we’ll get it all cleaned up,” he said.

Meteorologist Joshua Sandstrom with the National Weather Service in Duluth said most the northeastern part of Minnesota received “pretty high” snowfall totals, with Duluth seeing the highest with about 22 inches. Duluth also had strong wind gusts, causing concerns with lakeshore flooding in Canal Park and the aerial lift bridge, with maximum wave heights of 18 feet. International Falls saw a trace of snow and Rochester had under a half inch of snow.

Sandstrom said the Brainerd lakes area saw mostly snow from the storm, which was part of a slow moving low pressure system that made its way through the northeastern part of Minnesota and into Wisconsin.


Area snow totals

  • Tamarack, 14 inches.

  • Pine River, 12-14.5 inches.

  • Motley, 13.5 inches.

  • Brainerd, 12.5-13.1 inches.

  • St. Mathias, 13 inches.

  • Little Falls, 10 inches.

  • Malmo, 9.2 inches.

  • Fort Ripley, 8 inches.

  • Walker and Cass Lake, 7.4 inches.

  • Nisswa, 6.5 inches.

  • Little Falls, 4.5 inches

  • A mile northeast of Little Falls, 10 inches.

Regional snow totals

  • Near Lester Park (Duluth), 23.5 inches.

  • Duluth, 22 inches.

  • Hermantown, 21.7 inches.

  • Cloquet, 19.5 inches.

  • Saginaw, 18 inches.

  • Moose Lake, 15.2 inches.

  • Sebeka, 13.8 inches.

  • Hinckley, 13 inches.

  • Alexandria, 13.2 inches.

  • Park Rapids, 12 inches.

  • Deer Creek, 9.1 inches.

  • Marshall, 3 inches.

Upcoming forecast

Weather conditions this week for Brainerd to start cold but stay dry. Sunday night the low is expected to be around 2 degrees, with a north wind of 5-10 mph, becoming light and variable after midnight. Brainerd residents are expected to see patchy freezing fog before 11 a.m. Monday, with the temperature high of 25 and low of 15 at night.

The forecast for Tuesday and Wednesday calls for mostly sunny skies with temperatures in the upper 20s to lower 30s for highs and around 18-20 degrees for lows at night.

There is a slight chance of snow in the forecast for Saturday, according to the weather service. However, a lot can happen in a week.

Winter driving safety tips

  • Slow down and drive to the weather/road conditions. The posted speed limit is reduced when conditions become poor. Duty to drive with due care is the basic speed law.

  • Always wear a seat belt as it could help save a life and avoid or reduce injuries in the event of a crash.

  • Provide for plenty of travel time.

  • Increase stopping distance between vehicles.

  • Turn on headlights.

  • Don't use cruise control on slippery roadways.

  • Don't travel if conditions are poor, if it can be avoided.

  • Make sure all vehicle windows are clear from snow and ice.

  • Have four winter type tires with good tread depth.

  • Eliminate distractions while driving.

  • Buckle up, and make sure child restraints are secured tightly. It is recommended to use bulky clothes and blankets on top of the child restraint harness, not beneath, to ensure harness restraints fit properly.

  • Use extra precautions when driving around snowplows by keeping at least five car-lengths behind plows.

  • If skidding, remain calm, ease foot off the gas, and drivers should turn the steering wheel in the direction they want the front of the vehicle to go.

  • If vehicle has an anti-lock braking system, apply a steady firm pressure to the brake pedal. Never pump ABS brakes.

  • Clear snow and ice from vehicle windows, hood, headlights, brake lights and directional signals.

  • Equip vehicles with a scraper/brush, small shovel, jumper cables, tow chain and a bag of sand or cat litter for tire traction. Blankets, heavy boots, warm clothing and flashlights are also important, as are storing high-energy foods such as chocolate or energy bars.

  • Be sure cellphones are charged for long trips, and inform family of destination plans and schedule.

  • If stranded, stay in the vehicle.

  • Parents of teen drivers should make sure new motorists experience snow and ice driving in a safe environment, such as an empty parking lot.

  • Check or call 511, for updated road conditions.

(Source: Minnesota State Patrol)

JENNIFER KRAUS may be reached at or 218-855-5851. Follow me at on Twitter.
What To Read Next
Get Local