Hours after snowplows had cleared freeways in synchronized trios and homeowners had rolled snowblowers back into the garage, Minnesotans were feeling proud and grateful to have gotten through the season’s first big snowstorm.
For some, the storm was a headache. For others, it was pure joy.
On Wednesday morning, as skies cleared and the sun emerged, people cheerily waved at neighbors still clearing their driveways or tromped through the snow to help.
Ski and sledding hills were packed at midafternoon, and may be even more so on Thursday, when a couple of inches of new snow are expected to fall in the metro area, according to the National Weather Service in Chanhassen. More snow is possible Friday afternoon and evening.
High temperatures are expected to be comfortably in the 20s and 30s through the weekend, with nighttime lows in the teens and 20s, the Weather Service said. But early next week could be a different story: The forecast calls for highs and lows in the single digits.
Tuesday and early Wednesday, more than a foot of light, powdery snow fell in Bloomington, with only a few inches less in the southern third of the state. The official total at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport was 9.2 inches.
By Wednesday afternoon’s commute, freeways were mostly clear and dry, with an occasional patch of washboard ice dwindling in the bright sunshine. Main thoroughfares were wet and slushy but passable.
Outstate, high winds in prairie areas made for some precarious patches, but roads were generally open.
Flight operations at the airport were near normal by noon Wednesday, spokesman Patrick Hogan said. A “few hundred” passengers who were unable to fly out Tuesday night spent the night in the terminal or at local hotels, Hogan said.
The snowstorm also brought a perennial unpleasant surprise to some. With snow emergencies in place Wednesday, hundreds of drivers in Minneapolis and St. Paul found they suddenly had no car to drive.
In Minneapolis, 401 vehicles were towed to the impound lot by 10 a.m., and another 806 were ticketed, a city spokesman said. In St. Paul, 441 vehicles had been towed as of noon, and police handed out 1,184 tickets, “making a bad snowstorm even worse,” said police spokesman Steve Linders.
In addition to the inconvenience of having to retrieve their cars, those with towed vehicles had to write out hefty checks to cover tickets, towing and impound fees.
Another unfortunate effect of the snow: crashes on slick roads. The State Patrol responded to nearly 500 crashes and 475 vehicles that had slid off the road between 10 a.m. Tuesday and 10 a.m. Wednesday.
Before Tuesday’s storm, the season’s cumulative snowfall was 16 inches below normal, according to the National Weather Service. Snowfall amounts varied widely, with generally deeper totals south of the metro.
Thursday’s snowfall is expected to taper off by noon, but it may affect the morning commute, forecasters said. When it ends, there will be up to 2 inches of fresh snow to make the snowbanks and drifts just a little higher — and prettier.