DULUTH, Minn. - Just one letter separates the word "hill" from the opposite of heaven, anddrivers in Duluth were somewhere in between Tuesday as they navigated one of Minnesota's hilliest, snowiest cities.
"Dealing with the hills and getting traffic to move up and down these hills is quite a challenge," said Kelly Fleissner, manager of maintenance operations for the city of Duluth.
Picture San Francisco in the snow belt and you have a rough idea of the challenge faced by Duluth.
"We're used to it," said Fleissner. "It's part of our life, part of our culture trying to deal with the stuff."
Duluth had plenty of it to deal with Tuesday. Some areas of the city received more than a foot of snow by morning, with another foot possible in the second wave of the storm expected Tuesday night.
The key to any success Duluth has achieved on the roads is sand. Duluth uses a lot of it, mixed with salt, to create traction. Most cities have moved away from sand. Some consultants have suggested Duluth do the same, until they actually pay a visit to the city.
"After they come here, they say, 'You've guys have got to use sand,' said Fleissner. "And that's included some guys who plowed snow in the mountains, who said, 'Your hills are steeper here.'"
On its steepest streets, Duluth resorts to six-wheel-drive graders starting at the top of the hill and using their blades as a break as they plow their way down.
Private plow driver David Nelson didn't quite make it to one of his accounts, before he conceded to a slick hill and slowly backed down. "There's no way I'll make it up there. I have to go around the back, drop the plow and try again," he said.
On some streets in Duluth, all traffic is one way: down.