The Big One showed up across the Upper Midwest. The fierce storm caused hundreds of accidents, some power failures and deaths.
A potentially historic February snowstorm slammed into the Twin Cities late Saturday, dumping what forecasters say could be well over a foot of heavy snow by the time it ends today, creating hazardous conditions and widespread disruptions.
The fierce storm and its strong winds brought white-out conditions to much of the Upper Midwest Saturday, and in some places left havoc and death in its wake. In Wisconsin, seven deaths were reported, including one accident in which three people were killed by a snowplow. Across Minnesota, the State Patrol reported nearly 200 accidents, 120 of them in the metro area, but no deaths as of late Saturday.
In Iowa, 100,000 customers were without power.
Scattered power failures were reported in the metro area.
By the time it ends, parts of Hennepin and Ramsey counties could see a total snowfall of 17 to 22 inches, said meteorologist Tony Zaleski, of the National Weather Service in Chanhassen.
"This will be the biggest storm, certainly of the winter, and probably the biggest in eight years," said meteorologist Paul Douglas. A foot of snow in February would be historic, he said. "Since modern-day records were started at the Minneapolis Weather Bureau in 1891, there's never been a foot in February from one storm, which is kind of bizarre."
Snow didn't start falling in earnest until late Saturday afternoon in the Twin Cities, which had been pelted with sleet.
Forecasters knew this would be big, Douglas said, but computer models kept vacillating, predicting 2 feet, then 7 inches, then 11/2 feet.
"We have been in a snow drought most of the winter and the widespread perception is that it doesn't and will not snow here anymore," Douglas said. "We needed to shake people up a bit and say, 'This is the real deal.' "
In the gusty winds it appeared at times to be snowing upward. "The worst is yet to come," the weather service warned.
As driving conditions became more treacherous, the State Patrol urged motorists to stay home until the roads were clear, and officials who closed the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport for slightly more than an hour Saturday said they hoped the heaviest snowfall would be over before dawn, allowing normal flight schedules today.
"I wouldn't travel anymore. I'd stay home. Be smart. Take the advice of the State Patrol," said Kevin Walker, public affairs coordinator for the Minnesota Department of Transportation.
Although the snow was heavy and compacted, Walker said, road crews had been able to keep up with it. Salting will continue through the weekend on ramps and bridges.
In parts of southern Minnesota and western Wisconsin, no one was making jokes about the storm being a bust.
As hazardous conditions worsened in Winona County, sheriff's deputies turned to four-wheel-drive vehicles. Blinding snow caused maybe 50 cars to spin out or go into the ditch, said Sheriff David Brand.
By late Saturday in Winona County, the town of Pickwick had already received 17.5 inches of snow and Goodview, 14.2 inches.
Storm gets slow start