Heavy Lake Effect Snow Benefits
GREAT OUTDOORS: Ironwood Slammed with Over A Foot of Lake Effect Snow
IRONWOOD, Mich. — In this weeks Great Outdoors, Fox 21’s Meteorologist Brittney Merlot takes us to the snowbelt that’s just finishing digging out of their recent lake effect winter storm.
Plows and loaders filled the streets of Ironwood on Tuesday, clearing over 14 inches of snowfall that dropped in just 24 hours. Arctic air with temperatures in the single digits rushed over warm 40 degree open waters of lake superior, setting up heavy snow bands.
“Visibility at times was probably 100 feet or less.” explained the Store Manager at Hobby Wheel Bill Quigley. “There were semi’s literally parked on the other side of the street from us, they couldn’t move because they couldn’t see. But it’s our typical winter snow storm, it’s fun!”
Fun? How could that be!
“We live in the snowbelt, we get nailed with it. I’ve been doing it since i was 16 years old and I’m 48 now so I’ve been plowing for many years. You just get used to it, it’s something we’ve grown accustom to.” said a local plow truck driver, John Kallas.
With over 160″ of snowfall on average during the winter season in Ironwood, they find the benefits falling from the sky.
“It’s our bread and butter in the winter time around here and that’s what tourism brings in for this area. So it’s good for all the businesses and trails once the ski hills open too.” explained Kallas.
Ironwood is also home to one of the largest snowmobile shops in the Midwest, Cloverland Motorsports has over 100 sleds to rent, revving up for the season.
“Basically people are calling now to rent in February.” said Wally the Manager at Cloverland Motorsports. “It’s pretty wild. I mean you can have as many as 10,000 people in our area on a weekend. All the motels are full, it’s good for the restaurants, our business, everything. It’s a big snowball effect.”
With tourists not typically not arriving until the Thanksgiving holiday, early snow can never hurt.
“This area pretty much depends on snowmobilers for survival year round. You just learn how to manage your money so you can make it year to year.” explained Wally.
Early snowfall and preparation for this is key. “The club was by this morning and because we got an excessive 12 inches of snow, they will start rolling to freeze the trails down.” said Wally.
The trails still won’t open until December 1, 2019.
But Wally says, “As long as they can get something froze down then your trails remain good all winter. Everything you get on top of it is a bonus to flatten them out and smooth them out.”
They do this with a big roller behind the groomer, compacting the snow,while squishing any moisture out. This allows the ground to freeze, which is key for good trails.
“It’s awesome. where we are located you can go clear across the U.P., you can go over to Iron county Wisconsin and over to Minnesota. Wherever you want to go.” said Wally.
If you’re still waiting to tune up your sled, Cloverland is currently under a two week wait.
“It’s very hectic. Everyone wants to get ready for the season right now. They get excited to purchase new as well, as get their stuff serviced and repaired.” explained Wally.
But how does this much snow really affect the locals of the Upper Peninsula?
“For locals it’s a mixed bag, if you’re living here you might as well embrace it because you’re stuck with it. But you are going to have people that hate it still. I hate moving it but I love playing in it.” said Quigley.
Many people living there have already been spotted skiing and snowshoeing, blazing the fresh trails.
“It gets everybody excited as soon as we get the snowfall. Especially if we get a big foot dump like we had. Then people start coming in. They want their skis and snowshoes and are antsy to get out and play in it.” said Quigley.
From making money to having fun, Yoopers know how to do it right.
“It’s always fun to be the first person out. Everybody else that does this is envious like, ahhh you got it before I did.” laughed Quigley. “I did see snowmobile tracks last night so someone was playing with the snowmobile already!”
It’s a way of life up nort… work, play and appreciate.
“There actually is a lot of people that appreciate us, we will get people that honk and will give us the thumbs up. you’ll see a lot of posts on Facebook thanking the plow drivers too.” smiled Kallas.
Big snow events is surely one thing the small town of Ironwood can handle and appreciate!