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After May snowfall that may rewrite record books, diehard skiers hit Birkie trail

An Iron County snowplow clears snow from Wisconsin Highway 77 in Upson, along the Gogebic Range, on Thursday afternoon, May 2, 2013. A May snowstorm dropped more than a foot of snow in parts of Northwestern Wisconsin late Wednesday and Thursday. (Andrew Krueger / / 6
A group of Hayward-area women skiers - "Ski and Tea" - meets every Friday morning year-round. This winter, for the first time, they skied every Friday in April, and now into May, as shown in this group photo from Friday, May 3, 2013, from the Highway OO trailhead on the Birkie Trail. (Photo courtesy of Judy Rowley)2 / 6
Ken Frame (left) and Brent Kelley pause for a photo while skiing on the Birkie Trail at Highway OO near Seeley on Friday. About 5 kilometers of trail was groomed after a May storm dumped more than a foot of new snow on the area - allowing for a rare chance to ski the trail in May. (Photo courtesy of Ken Frame)3 / 6
Vehicles filled the parking lot at the Highway OO trailhead of the Birkie Trail on Friday as cross-country skiers took the rare chance to ski the trail in May. (Photo courtesy of Ken Frame)4 / 6
Plenty of snow covered the Birkie Trail near Seeley on Friday to allow for rare May skiing. (Photo courtesy of Ken Frame)5 / 6
Skiers who hit the Birkie Trail near Seeley on Friday, May 3, 2013, after a May snowstorm had to contend with slushy puddles along the way. (Photo courtesy of Ken Frame)6 / 6

Cross-country skiers were out on the Birkie Trail near Hayward on Friday after a snowstorm that may enter the books as the greatest May snowfall on record for Wisconsin.

Ned Zuelsdorff, executive director of the American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation, said he heard about 40 cars were parked Friday at the Highway OO trail crossing, where the Birkie crew groomed about 5 kilometers of trail after a storm dumped well over a foot of snow on the area.

"This is the latest that any grooming has ever been done on that trail," he said. "I think people are getting out there ... just to have skied in May."

Zuelsdorff -- who is retiring as executive director later this month -- said conditions should allow for skiing through the weekend, as long as forecast light rain showers don't erode the snow too much. He said there was about as much snow on the trail Friday as there was for February's Birkebeiner, the annual race from Cable to Hayward that draws thousands of skiers. A key difference, though, was that there was a much more solid, packed base of snow in February.

Initial snowfall reports from late Wednesday through late Thursday included about 16 inches in the Hayward, Ashland and Mellen areas. Snow continued to fall into Friday in those areas, potentially adding to those totals.

To the south, a weather spotter near Rice Lake reported 17 inches of snow. Along the Mississippi River near Stockholm, Wis., a spotter reported 17.7 inches of snow from the storm.

While the snow reports still have to be checked and verified, it appears that some locations in Wisconsin will enter the record books with the new record for greatest May snowfall. According to the National Weather Service, previous May snow records for Wisconsin included:

  • 1-day total: 10.9 inches at Pine River in central Wisconsin on May 2, 1940
  • 2-day total: 11 inches at Ashland on May 3-4, 1954
  • 3-day total: 12 inches at Medford, May 6-8, 1960

    Minnesota record?

    The National Weather Service reported that this week's storm may have set a May snowfall record for Minnesota, too.

    While Northeastern Minnesota largely escaped the snow, weather spotters in parts of southeastern Minnesota reported snowfall of 14 to 15 inches.

    According to the Weather Service, the current record daily snowfall for May is 12 inches, set three times -- at St. Cloud on May 17, 1890; Windom on May 8, 1938; and near Leonard in northwestern Minnesota on May 3, 1954.

    Flooding update

    The level of the Montreal River at Hurley, which rose from recent snowmelt and caused two bridges to be closed earlier in the week, was down about 2 feet on Friday from its peak on Wednesday, according to Wisconsin emergency management officials.

    South of Hurley, the waters of Pine Lake in the town of Oma rose about 15 inches on Friday, causing some flooding concerns.

    Water levels on the Bad River in Ashland County and the St. Louis River in Carlton County continued to fall on Friday.

    Minor flooding continued along the Mississippi River near Aitkin.

    Road report

    St. Louis County officials reported Friday that road conditions are improving as water levels drop from recent snowmelt-related flooding.

    Only four county roads remained closed Friday:

  • Munger Shaw Road between Seville Road and U.S. Highway 53 in Grand Lake Township
  • Fox Farm Road east of Pequaywan Lake Road in Alden Township
  • South Townline Road between Minnesota Highway 73 and Hingeley Road near Hibbing
  • East Goodell Road west of U.S. Highway 53 near Angora

    Eleven other county roads have water on the roadway, but are considered passable and remained open with signs posted Friday.

    County crews will continue to monitor roads over the weekend.

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