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Ron Gearhart Jr. of Cottage Grove clears his driveway of snow Sunday evening. Scott Wente photo.

Double winter whammy: First snow, then cold

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news Cottage Grove, 55016
Cottage Grove Minnesota 7584 80th Street South 55016

Ready for spring yet?

It's not officially winter yet, but south Washington County and the rest of the Twin Cities got a huge dose of it in recent days. An estimated 18 inches to 20 inches of snow fell in the Cottage Grove area in fewer than 24 hours over the weekend, causing the biggest blizzard to hit the area in nearly 20 years.

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Then local residents were smacked with sub-zero temperatures early this week.

Cottage Grove Public Works crews worked furiously Saturday and into Sunday to clear the city's streets. Les Burshten, director of public works, said crews used 26 pieces of equipment in an effort to keep up with snow that was falling at up to an inch per hour during the height of the storm.

In addition to the city's fleet of plows, pickup trucks, tractors and front-end loaders were used to clear snow, Burshten said, as crews battled high winds, drifting snow and poor visibility.

"It was a good old-fashioned blizzard, is what it was," he said.

Residents shoveled out their driveways throughout the weekend.

Ron Gearhart Jr. of Cottage Grove probably echoed many residents when he said he had cleared his driveway on Hemingway Avenue - and then had to dig out again after the snow plows cleared side streets like his.

"When I came home, the snow was up to my knees," said Gearhart, who was able to use his snowblower. "I love snow. I just hate the cold."

Vehicles struggled to navigate the snowy streets during the storm. Cottage Grove police reported five storm-related accidents over the weekend, and assisted 12 motorists who found themselves stuck on roadways.

Considering the amount of snow, it wasn't as bad a day as police had expected, said Pete Koerner, deputy public safety director.

"For the most part, people just stayed inside," he said.

No citations were issued for winter parking ban violations, Koerner said, because the streets were clear of vehicles as plows made their way through the city. There were also no medical calls related to the storm, he said, "which is a surprise."

In Newport, Public Works Supervisor Bruce Hanson said crews worked non-stop from 5 a.m. Saturday through 11 a.m. Sunday to clear Newport's 25 miles of roadway. The city still has to clear deep snow from around numerous fire hydrants, Hanson said, and needs to push snow back further or truck it away from some intersections where visibility is low.

"We've got plenty of work left to do," Hanson said, "but we came out alright."

None of Newport's trails had been plowed by Monday. With snow depths of up to five feet in some places due to drifting, City Council members may decide at a meeting Thursday whether to clear them at all, Hanson said.

Burshten said Cottage Grove public works is having to haul snow away from some streets and intersections where there is no more room to push snow off of roadways. A portion of the city's trails is cleared and crews will work to plow the rest this week, he said.

Residents are being urged by the city to clear snow from fire hydrants in their area to aid public works and emergency crews.

Saturday's snowstorm didn't top the historic Halloween blizzard of 1991, Burshten said. But it was a doozy, nonetheless.

"It was a nasty day, I'll tell you that," Burshten said.

Scott Wente contributed to this story.

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