Watch for messy commute Monday morning

  • Article by: JIM ADAMS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 11, 2013 - 6:56 AM

We got more rain and sleet and less snow than forecast, but it all still made for a crash-filled Sunday.

Fresh flakes are making the workweek's first commute a slippery affair Monday morning, as drivers confront the remnants of the heavy, wet snow that spawned crashes and snowmen across much of Minnesota.

Western Minnesota took the brunt of Sunday's snowstorm, which dumped about 4 inches in the Twin Cities metro area but left rural areas buried under as much as a foot.

Another inch was expected to fall in the metro area overnight and then turn into blowing and drifting snow Monday as winds reach gusts of up to 35 miles per hour.

The National Weather Service said skies should turn partly cloudy by Monday night.

Sheriff's dispatchers in Grant and Douglas counties in west-central Minnesota said they had many calls Sunday about stranded cars as motorists battled high winds and poor visibility. The state closed several highways in the area Sunday evening, including Interstate 94 from Alexandria to Moorhead, and advised drivers in Duluth and elsewhere in St. Louis County to stay home.

The biggest snowfall was in Glenwood, which recorded 12 inches. Other locations with high snow totals included Walker with about 11 inches and Hillman with 10. Millerville had about 8 inches and Two Harbors about 6 inches, according to the Weather Service. In the metro area, Edina and Maplewood had about 3 inches, and Burnsville had about 2.5 inches.

The bad weather also led a number of school districts in western and northwestern Minnesota to delay school starts or cancel classes for Monday.

Road conditions were better in the metro, where many state highways and freeways were cleared by midafternoon, but Twin Cities drivers still accounted for more than half of the 239 crashes recorded by the Minnesota State Patrol on Sunday. Another 398 spinouts or vehicles going off the road were reported statewide by 4:30 p.m., said the patrol's Lt. Eric Roeske.

State and local highway crews were out all night, but commuters should plan to leave early for work Monday, said Kevin Gutknecht, Minnesota Department of Transportation spokesman.

The storm dropped more rain and sleet and less snow than forecasters had expected, but there was enough heavy, wet snow for snowmen and snowball fights to spring up in many neighborhoods, and for Minneapolis, St. Paul, Bloomington and several other communities to declare snow emergencies.

Although Minneapolis ended up getting only about 4 inches, parking lanes still needed to be plowed out after last week's series of light snowfalls, said Mike Kennedy, who oversees plowing for the Minneapolis Public Works Department.

"The timing of this one was difficult," Kennedy said Sunday. "But we needed to decide on a snow emergency by midafternoon." That much time is needed to give residents advance notice of when cars will be towed from city streets so plows can clear snow.

70,000 e-mails go out

Kennedy said he sent out 70,000 e-mails and an equal number of automatic phone calls to residents who wanted to know about snow emergencies. He said the city uses Facebook, Twitter and other means to reach the 250,000 vehicle owners who park on city streets.

The messy weather also delayed departures and arrivals at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. Airlines canceled more than 50 flights in anticipation of the storm, said Patrick Hogan, spokesman for the Metropolitan Airports Commission.

"It's a tricky storm for everybody because we didn't know in what form the precipitation would come down," Hogan said Sunday, noting that airport plows had trouble keeping up until the snow stopped in early afternoon.

"Delays were averaging about an hour," he said Sunday evening. "We're catching up."

Staff Writers Heron Marquez Estrada and Chris Havens contributed to this report. Jim Adams • 612-673-7658.

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