There’s cabin fever in cabin country.
Northern Minnesota residents are bracing for a storm Sunday that’s expected to dump 4 to 7 more inches of snow on Duluth and Brainerd and 10 inches on Bemidji, a drubbing that would make this the area’s second snowiest April — with the month just half over.
It follows a record-setting 13 inches of snow Thursday and Friday that contributed to more than 40 accidents and spinouts, killing two people in Duluth.
And, experts warn, the end isn’t in sight.
While avid skiers are embracing the extra weeks of winter weather, it’s testing the patience of others and creeping up on the much-anticipated fishing opener less than a month away.
Concern is growing that the lingering winter could slow tourism for resorts, parks and small towns that rely on warm weather visitors.
“Even the die-hard snowmobilers are packing it in, waiting to unpack their golf clubs,” said Mark Kavanaugh, a resort owner on Sylvan Lake near Brainerd. “The season has lost its luster.”
Wearing out its welcome
At this time last year, residents in the Twin Cities and northern Minnesota were basking in unusually warm weather, mowing lawns and enjoying record early ice-outs.
But this year, winter is wearing out its welcome, dumping nearly 100 inches of snow on Duluth and leaving lakes such as Itasca and Lake of the Woods covered with 3 feet of ice.
The extra snow also is stalling the reopening of campground buildings at Itasca State Park and the usual spring work of painting cabins or preparing boats at resorts across the northland. But with his cabins nearly booked for the fishing opener May 11, Leech Lake resort owner Roy Huddle is optimistic the work will get done and no one will cancel. “This has been a rare spring,” he said. “Minnesotans are hopeful.”
The last time ice wasn’t out in time for the fishing opener was years ago. Huddle salvaged some business by using a pontoon boat to break up the ice.
On Lake of the Woods, one of the state’s fishing destinations, Joe Henry said the extra snowfall is deterring some people from traveling on roads, but that anglers loyal to the traditions surrounding opening day will come even if the ice persists.
“They’re going to find open water anywhere it is and if anything, it adds to the novelty,” said Henry, executive director of Lake of the Woods Tourism.
Snow keeps coming
At Gunflint Lodge near Grand Marais, some 30 inches of ice are still on Gunflint Lake, but business has actually been busier this year with snowshoers and skiers taking to the trails.
“It’s a good thing,” Gunflint Lodge employee Diedre Sension said of the fresh snow. “People are still trying to get out.”
It will be tougher on Sunday.
The National Weather Service in Duluth issued winter storm warnings for the region, which is expected to get 4 to 7 inches of snow, bringing this month’s total to 24 inches already. That would blow past the average snowfall of 6.9 inches for April, and put 2013 within striking distance of the record-setting 31.6 inches that fell in April 1950.
“It’s been a long winter,” said Dean Melde, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Duluth. “The snow keeps coming. We’re not out of the woods yet.”