“As the West burns, the South swelters and the East floods, some Americans are starting to reconsider where they choose to live,” writes New York Times climate reporter Kendra Pierre-Louis in an article suggesting people might someday migrate to Duluth to escape global warming.
Although Duluth is known for — and by some feared — for its winters, they tend to run together in our memories. Everyone who experienced it recalls the Mega Storm of 1991 and there was a long cold snap a few years ago, but by and large the various storms and other winter climate events are forgotten or the memories get mashed together.
So, in an effort to sort them out I tossed together a brief and somewhat vague list of some winter moments that have been marked on Perfect Duluth Day in the past (with links) or have been loosely referenced on the web as having been more wintery than other winters. (As the comments have come in I’ve added a few more links from Zenith City Online and notes regarding conditions of some years.)
Due to standing water in the Canal Park business district, the city has temporarily closed South Lake Ave and Canal Park Drive below Buchanan Street.
Beyond Buchanan Street there is debris and open manholes beneath the water, so traveling on foot is highly discouraged. Waves are expected to increase into the evening, which could make water levels too deep for vehicles.
Shilo is lethargic in this Duluth heat. Curiosity that once jetted her off the ground at the potential of capturing what made the random noise in the brush has quelled. She has become a passive witness. Her eyes dart in interest, maybe a quick turn of the head, but nothing is important enough to coax her legs into a sprint. Not on August days when temperatures are 80 to 90 degrees and she can only expire heat while sweating through paw pads or panting.
I brush her almost daily. Removing at least a little of her hair layer may help some trapped heat escape. She has taken to lying on the cement slab in the garage, two large doors remain open letting what exists of the midday breeze wave in, a welcomed visitor.
The other loyal companion, Bear, aka Mr. Bearington, a newfoundland mixed with lab, is still on constant guard. Heat does not deter him from his mission. He remains focused on what happens on the other side of the fence. He must protect us from intruders that might sneak through the boundary. Most of the time it’s another dog, sometimes it’s a skater, a horse, a biker, or the most ferocious intruder this summer, a snapping turtle so small it could fit in the palm of my hand. Still, a snapper is a snapper. Once I realized we were being invaded by such a fearsome beast, I scooped it into a bucket and escorted it to the pond on the back 15.
Minnesota Nice Imaging of Bloomington captured these images following last week’s flooding in northern Minnesota and Wisconsin.
“The rivers were RAGING!” the video description on Vimeo notes. “It was so loud, you couldn’t hear the drones 10 feet away from you. What amazing sights to behold though — the St. Louis River and Thompson Reservoir were busting at the banks to the point that even the large inlet to Lake Superior was flooding, and creating some amazing rapids!”
I realized I was a northern Minnesotan on my first return trip home during my freshman year of college at an East Coast school. My mother collected me from the Minneapolis airport, and we stopped for dinner at a restaurant in Forest Lake. The waitress came to our table, opened her mouth, and began to talk. I was immediately horrified.
The accent. It was real. The Fargo stereotype was true. I’d just spent an entire semester trying to project an image of someone who wasn’t from bumfuck nowhere. I’d patiently explained to scions of the Acela Corridor elite that no, Duluth was not a suburb of the Twin Cities, and that no, ice fishing was not a fictional pursuit, but something that real people actually did. And now, here was this polite, cheery waitress taking my order, and the poor woman had no way of knowing that the words issuing from her mouth filled me with dread.
Through trial and tribulation, I overcame my fear of the northern Minnesotan accent. Even though I’d sworn I’d never come back when I was in high school, I found my way to a home with the same sliver of a lake view I’d enjoyed as a child in Lakeside. The story of what led me from one point to another is tedious, its details ranging from the mundane to the intensely personal, and the source of far too many of my own words spilled out on blogs and in the lonely, booze-fueled journals of late adolescence. I am here, a Duluthian first and foremost among any commitments I may have to places, and ready to bore any unfortunate soul with an hours-long nuanced account of why this has come to be. I have even come to accept the accent, mostly. But there are still, admittedly, moments of doubt.
All of these moments come in the time of year that in other lands goes by the name of “spring.”
I’ve spent the past few weeks obsessively feeding the fire, clearing out ashes, hauling more wood in, and worrying the dogs might have cabin fever. I know they crave the chase of scents that waft over tracks in the snow. They crave the adrenaline rush during the run, the explosion of speed after paws dig into resistance, and the freedom of the wilds. Fifteen acres of land in Lakewood, just north of Duluth, awaits them, they know this. Two fenced in acres seems like a prison in comparison. But they don’t think about frozen paws and hidden sticks looming under the snowline.
I however, with extreme abnormality, do not desire my usual trek amongst the trees where I walk into peace, clarity, and the calmness that mingles between the earth and stars. My feet are solid on the hardwood floor that covers a cold cement slab over frozen ground. It’s been cold for too long. A cold not worthy of dressing in layers: wicking socks, Smartwool socks, fleece leggings … only to capture a fractional moment of meditative silence amongst the freeze.
I admit it, I’m tired. I’m tired of putting on my left glove, tucking it into the jacket cuff, then attempting to do the same to the right with a thick awkward moving gloved hand. Only to unglove when I figure out I forgot to start the zip of the jacket and can’t achieve the initial detailed alignment of zippered teeth. Try and try again, the glove inevitably will be poutingly removed, zipper aligned, and the uncoordinated procedure of glove replacement aggressively completed, again.