Snow expected to sweep across the state Wednesday morning may give drivers and public transit riders a bit of déjà vu a day after they slogged across icy, snow-covered roads on Tuesday.
By the time the snow ended Tuesday afternoon, the State Patrol reported 376 crashes that led to three deaths and 37 injuries. Hundreds more cars spun out or landed in ditches.
Wednesday’s commute could be equally challenging depending on the timing of the snowfall, said Kevin Gutknecht, spokesman for the Minnesota Department of Transporation. “If folks want to reduce the stress in their lives, they should plan ahead, leave early if they can and just be prepared to take their time,” he said.
Another 1 to 2 inches of snow is expected to fall overnight and through the morning, said Jim Taggart, meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Chanhassen.
With temperatures in the single digits, the snow will probably be lighter and more fluffy than what fell the day before, he said. That’s good news for those who have to shovel but could cause visibility problems for drivers as winds hitting 10 to 20 miles per hour whip the snow across roads.
Arctic air will then settle in as temperatures dip to 15 below at sunrise on Friday and hit only a high of 5 degrees, Taggart said. Minnesotans farther north will be waking up to temperatures ranging from 25 to 30 below, he said.
In extreme cold, salt will take longer to melt road ice, Gutknecht said. The cold snap also means patches of black ice could send vehicles skidding, he said.
Motorists throughout the state were faced with treacherous conditions Tuesday as icy roads and blowing snow caused scores of crashes and spinouts, including pileups that briefly closed some roads.
Whiteout conditions led MnDOT to issue a no-travel advisory from Windom to Fairmont to Sleepy Eye while roads were snow-covered across most of southern, western and central Minnesota.
Tuesday’s winter storm likely caused more problems on the roads because it began with rain and turned to ice, Gutknecht said.
“When it snows, it takes a little while for it to accumulate to the point where it’s going to cause problems,” he said. “When it rains and freezes, it immediately becomes a problem. The frozen ice on the road, topped off with snow, made things really quite messy.”
Metro Transit buses in the Twin Cities were running well behind schedule through most of the Tuesday morning commute.
Treacherous road conditions may have played a role in two crashes in the state Tuesday.
Sierra R. Matthews, 16, of Pengilly, was killed when her car slid into the opposite lane, crashing head-on with an Itasca County sheriff’s deputy in his patrol car.
The deputy was responding to a medical call and had his emergency lights flashing on his vehicle when Matthews, a junior at Greenway High School, lost control of her car while heading west on snowy and icy Hwy. 169, according to the State Patrol.
Ice also may have played a role in a rear-end crash Monday that killed Frederick Paul Meyer, 58, of Clearwater. Meyer was traveling east on Interstate 94 when his van rear-ended a semitrailer truck carrying a large excavator. The truck was stopped on the highway because of a crash ahead of it.
Staff writers Paul Walsh and Tim Harlow contributed to this report.