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Let it snow, let it snow #x2026;

Minnesota faces economic, environmental woes

Hope for more snow. It seems like a ridiculous thing to say in February in Minnesota, but much of the state's economic and environmental health depends upon a decent winter snow pack.

So far, this winter has been a flop in the snow department. Rochester is about two feet below normal to date, and still has had only one snowfall in excess of three inches. The feeble snowfall this season has been easy on the back, but in the long run could hit all of us in the pocketbook.

How's that? Well, while we're saving money on plowing, sanding and heating, the state's four-season ecosystem is skipping the equivalent of a healthy R and R. Normal snowfall totals equal a generous spring runoff into the state's rivers and lakes. One of Minnesota's most valuable commodities is fresh water. The implications of falling lake levels and inadequate ground moisture are unpleasant to consider.

An additional concern is the short-term economic cost to the state's winter-related industries -- ski hills, resorts, sporting goods dealers, winter celebrations and, yes, snow-removal companies. Less snow means less activity for all of those concerns, which in turn means not only struggling owners and job cuts, but smaller tax collections for state and local governments.

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Minnesota is not alone in this topsy-turvy winter. Eastern Canada, where winter is big business and part of the culture, is also suffering from a snow drought. Falling lake levels, especially on the Great Lakes, are a genuine concern for both Canada and U.S. states in the region, and could have drastic economic consequences.

Weather, of course, goes in patterns, and we could see a return to cold, snowy, normal winter weather in no time. But the weather pattern in Minnesota for much of this winter, pleasant as it has been, could end up being too much of a good thing.

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