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Snowcapped: Red Wing digs out after record snowfall

Laura Bolland uses a snowthrower Tuesday to clear a sidewalk along Featherstone Road. R-E photo by Mike Longaecker

It was one for the record books - in Red Wing, at least.

Over the space of about 24 hours, Red Wing became virtually encased in snow - 20 inches of it, once it stopped falling Saturday evening.

According to R-E records going back to 1913, storm brought the most accumulated snow in a 24-hour period. The weekend storm alone put Red Wing nearly halfway to its annual 44-inch seasonal snowfall average.

"It's Minnesota - you never know what you're going to get," said Dave Hallstrom, owner of Hallstrom Greenhouse and Garden Center.

Farther north, the same storm was blamed on the collapse of the Metrodome roof, which ripped and wilted under the weight of heavy accumulation.

Meanwhile, Hallstrom had his own - albeit much smaller - collapse to deal with. He arrived at his Hallstrom Drive facility Sunday to find heaps of snow had crushed one of his greenhouses.

"The snow just came too quick and too fast," he said, adding that the greenhouse had been heated in hopes of melting the snow.

Hallstrom said he'll need to rebuild the 30-by-100-foot greenhouse - which was empty at the time of the collapse - by February, when it will be needed for growing.

While some made the best of the white stuff - children took to Coon Hill with sleds and snowboards Saturday afternoon - others were less than thrilled by the snow event.

The city of Red Wing enforced its snow emergency policy Sunday through Monday. All told, 27 vehicles were towed and 229 parking tickets were issued.

Red Wing police Capt. Darold Glander said complaints and questions about the snow emergency policy rang into his office through Tuesday. He said residents have been struggling with the policy, which allows vehicles to be ticketed even if the street they are on has been cleared.

Those plows may need to make more passes, he said.

"It doesn't matter if the street has been plowed or not," Glander said. "If your street is affected, your vehicle should not be on the street or it will be ticketed and towed. The plows need the opportunity to do the most effective job possible."

City plow crews pulled extensive overtime during the storm at the cost of about $20,000, said Deputy Director of Public Services Lynn Nardinger

The next phase of snow removal - which began Monday, with snow being blown into dump trucks - continues through today downtown.

He expected more snow forecast between today and Thursday to tie up plow drivers, who should complete snow removal next week.

Nardinger said Public Works is aware some snow piles and drifts have created visibility issues for motorists. He asked residents to be patient.

"We're going to get to them," he said of the obstructions.

Given the intensity of the storm, the city also is loosening its policy on sidewalk snow removal. Nardinger said the standing 24-hour rule is being extended to a week.

"It's good to give residents a little bit more time," he said.

After a week, however, Sentencing to Service crews will head out to clear sidewalks. When that's the case, residents will be billed a fee, Nardinger said.

He said neither he nor any of his crew recall plowing so much snow at once.

"This was a big deal for us," he said.

Still, he said crews were well prepared in advance of the blizzard.

"By noon, you could pretty much drive wherever you wanted Sunday," Nardinger said.

He said the weekend storm exhausted the city's 2010 snow removal budget.

A 17-person crew ran from 4 a.m. until noon Saturday, clearing all city streets, Nardinger said. A second nine-person afternoon crew plowed emergency routes, hills and bad intersection until 7 p.m. Saturday, he said