9th coldest winter
A common topic this brutal winter is how cold it’s has been and when the snow will stop coming.
So far this winter, the Twin Cities area has seen 50 days below zero, according to the National Weather Service Twin Cities.
The Weather Service has also stated some of the coldest recent reported windchills were 37-below in Osseo and 35-below in Maple Grove the morning of Feb. 27.
Meteorological winter, from December through the end of February, just ended. The National Weather Service has ranked the winter of December 2013 to February 2014 as the ninth coldest metro winter on record, with an average temperature of 9.7 degrees. The last time a winter was this cold was the winter of 1978-79. The coldest meteorological winter was the winter of 1874-75 when the average temperature was 3.7 degrees.
This winter has also seen large snow piles that keep piling high. The snow depth as of March 3 in the Maple Grove area was 23.5 inches deep. As of March 2, the Twin Cities area has had 58.1 inches of snow. This reading was taken at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, which is the official climate site for the Twin Cities.
An average annual snowfall in the Twin Cities is 45.3 inches. The most snow the Twin Cities has officially seen during one winter was 98.4 inches in the winter of 1983–84.
How are the cities of Maple Grove and Osseo dealing with this winter?
Frozen pipes and frozen service lines have been an issue this winter. Frozen pipes are found inside the homes, usually with poor insulation. The water freezes and expands causing the pipe to burst. Another issues this winter is frozen service lines.
“This happens (usually) out in the street, where the service line that goes to the homes connect with the large water main out in the street,” said Osseo City Planner Riley Grams. “The frost line this year is as deep as it’s been in a very long time. When streets are plowed, it removes the layer of insulating snow from the ground. That exposes the service lines out in the street to the frost line and as soon as it reaches the depths of those service lines, they freeze up and water no longer runs through them and on into the home.”
The city of Maple Grove has only had four frozen service lines and one sewer service connections freeze as of last week, according to Public Works Director/City Engineer Ken Ashfeld.
“The city has assisted the homeowners in repairing and replacing lines and getting things back into service,” Ashfeld said. “As the frost line goes deeper this winter I expect their will be additional problems, but nothing too bad.”
Grams said the city of Osseo has received more than 20 calls regarding frozen service lines this winter, both residential and commercial units.
The city of Osseo recommends residents keep their water running constantly. “Usually a tap or faucet closest to where the service lines comes into the home works best,” Grams said. “Many times homes will have a sink or bathroom downstairs, which is typically where service lines come in.”
Ashfeld agreed. He said, “This is certainly one way to go about prevent frozen pipes. The use of water constantly running at a pencil lead width would be minimal.”
The Osseo City Council approved allowing residents and businesses to continuously run water without it effecting the water bill. The city will be looking at last year’s water usage from the time period from Feb. 10 to March 31. Any amount of the previous year’s usage won’t count against this year’s water bill for the same time period.
Large Snow amounts
Both Maple Grove and Osseo are also dealing with the large amounts of snow that has fallen this winter.
Ashfeld said it wasn’t economically feasible to haul away snow from the 280 miles of roadway within the city. “The areas with concern are sight distance and motorists we take care of,” he said. “We knock down the snowbanks and we try and remove the snow where we can, but it has been a struggle this winter.”
In Osseo, crews are working to scoop and haul snow out of critical areas, such as the commercial areas along Central Avenue and intersections in the residential areas. Grams said, “Crews are using a front end loader to scoop up snow and then hauling the snow off site. It’s particularly important on Central Avenue, where customers and patrons use on street parking to access businesses. It’s also critical at intersections in residential areas. When snow piles up at these intersections, it creates traffic hazards as well as pedestrian hazards, especially children walking to and from school, when they can’t see on-coming vehicles or people. We’re working hard to knock those snow piles down and haul excess snow away.”
Maple Grove has also been using a fair amount of sand and salt. “We have been putting down sand for traction because the salt does not work in this cold,” Ashfeld added. “The sun has been helping lately with the thaw, but it’s a still slow go.”
Ashfeld believes the city has enough salt to help the city get through the remaining part of the winter.
The next concern would be the potential for flooding once the temperatures warm up and the snow begins to melt.
Ashfeld said Maple Grove has an excellent storm drainage system and doesn’t anticipate too much flooding. “We can typically control run off,” he said. “The biggest concern is the snow around the intersections. The snow is stacked up around the curbs. We will be monitoring the thousands of catch basins to make sure they are free of snow and ice. If we need to, we will steam any basins open.”
The city of Osseo also wants to keep catch basins open once the snow begins to melt. When the catch basins get clogged with snow and ice, they do not allow melting snow to drain into the city’s storm sewer system.
Grams said, “This means that crews have to plow the snow back off of the curb, so that the catch basins are free and open. We often get complaints from residents for pushing snow up and onto their property or sidewalk…however, what they have to realize is that we are trying to keep those catch basins free and open. If they aren’t, the water from melting snow has no where to go except sit and pool, creating a messy situation. We are continually trying to educate our residents on the process needed to make sure snow is removed from streets and sidewalks, and catch basins remain unclogged.”