Michelle Norstad Cook's daily commute from Maple Grove to Roseville normally takes about 35 minutes. On Tuesday, it took 105.
Rain that turned to snow when temperatures quickly dropped from record highs into the 20s left metro area highways and freeways caked in an icy mess that made travel treacherous and spawned scores of crashes and spinouts.
Roads were in much better shape for the evening rush hour Tuesday, but traffic was still slower than normal, authorities said. Crews were still out treating the roads and scraping to reduce the ice-rutted surfaces. The good news is that no new snow is in the immediate future.
The State Patrol reported 155 crashes statewide between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Tuesday; 36 of those involved injuries. Over a 26-hour period, from 8 a.m. Monday to 10 a.m. Tuesday, the patrol responded to 410 crashes and 515 vehicles that had spun out or gone into the ditch. A crash in Benson left a man dead. He was identified by the patrol as Alfred Orlando Urke, 87, of Murdock, Minn.
Also on Tuesday, Gov. Mark Dayton signed an emergency executive order providing assistance and services to Renville County, where, on Monday, blizzard conditions "threatened public safety and necessitated road closures," the order said.
The order said the county alone didn't have the resources to tackle the winter conditions, thus the Sheriff's Office requested to use the armory in Olivia, Minn., and the help of the National Guard to shelter stranded motorists.
Elsewhere, Roosevelt and Warroad, two communities in far northwestern Minnesota, led snow totals with 11 and 9 inches respectively. Other totals included Fisher with 5 inches, Thief River Falls with 3.2 inches, Morgan with 3 inches and 2.4 inches at the National Weather Service offices in Chanhassen.
The first big snowstorm of the winter season took its toll on morning commuters across the metro area, including Metro Transit riders, with a majority of routes experiencing delays. At least three semitrailer trucks spun out around 7:10 a.m. and blocked the northbound lanes of Hwy. 169 at Hwy. 55 in Golden Valley for about 40 minutes. About an hour later, another semi jackknifed just north of Hwy. 55 at Medicine Lake Road in New Hope, prompting authorities to close the highway for a second time.
During her morning commute, Norstad Cook was caught behind several trucks unable to get up a hill on eastbound I-694 near Central Avenue in Fridley.
"A truck was sliding backward toward me," she said of the scary scenario. She was able to maneuver around the slipping truck and avoided a crash. Other drivers were not so lucky.
With sidewalks as slippery as the streets, Hennepin County Medical Center had treated seven people by midmorning who came in with injuries after falling, a hospital spokeswoman said.
A number of outstate school districts delayed classes by two hours. They included Bird Island-Olivia-Lake Lillian, Buffalo Lake-Hector-Stewart, Cedar Mountain, Edgerton, Green Isle Community School, Sleepy Eye and Tracy Area schools.
The wintry blast came a day after the metro area posted a record high of 57 degrees, breaking the old record of 56 degrees set in 1941. By 6 a.m. Tuesday, the temperature had fallen to 18 degrees with a windchill of minus 1 degree.
The storm caused Minnehaha Academy to delay demolition. It was damaged last summer when a gas line exploded at the south Minneapolis school.