St. Paul snow emergency declared; 1 dead in highway crash

  • Article by: PAUL WALSH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 22, 2013 - 6:14 PM

Snow emergencies were declared in St. Paul, Plymouth and St. Louis Park. Minneapolis said it would not call one.

Metro freeways were littered with spinouts and crashes -- one of them proving fatal -- during the rush hour Friday morning, as commuters skidded and crept along snow-covered roads.

Also accumulating were snow emergencies, meaning that residents in St. Paul, Plymouth, St. Louis Park, Robbinsdale and elsewhere in the metro are being warned to get their vehicles out of the way of plows. But the state’s largest city said Friday afternoon there will be no such declaration this time around.

Minneapolis notified its citizens that with “only 3 inches of snowfall and relatively warmer temperatures in Minneapolis, the city is not declaring a snow emergency.” Even so officials are urging motorists to keep their vehicles off the streets until after the plows come by.

To the south and west of the metro, schools were either delaying their first bell or tacking on a day off in front of the weekend.

On the highways, there was no bias for what side of town suffered the most throughout the commute. Between 7:45 and 8:20 a.m., there were eight crashes on the metro freeway system. One of them, on Hwy. 13 and Interstate 494 in the south metro, involved a fatality.

One driver in the two-vehicle wreck was killed when the northbound motorist went out of control near Mendota Heights and was broadsided in the southbound lane, according to the State Patrol.

In the north metro, a Forest Lake police squad car that was stopped along the median on southbound I-35 was struck by an SUV. Police Capt. Greg Weiss said the officer seated in his vehicle was not hurt, nor was anyone in the SUV or in the van he had stopped to assist. Road conditions “were pretty slick,” Weiss added.

On the edge of downtown Minneapolis, a spinout on eastbound Interstate 94 just past Hennepin Avenue created a jam-up through the Lowry tunnel and nearly back to West Broadway.

In the east metro, I-94 from Manning Avenue near Woodbury to Hwy. 280 past St. Paul was taking an hour to traverse at its worst. In Richfield, a crash on the Crosstown at Penn Avenue made a typically slow spot even slower.

From 5 to 9 a.m. across the state, the patrol says there have been 124 crashes reported, with 23 injuries and the one fatality. Another 119 vehicles left the road or spun out.

Public transportation in the Twin Cities appeared popular, with several suburban buses at full or nearly full capacity heading into downtown Minneapolis. As of 8:45 a.m., Metro Transit reported that the continuing snowfall was making it increasingly difficult for its 440 buses to stay on schedule. The buses were succeeding about 54 percent of the time, with the average delay growing to nine minutes. Light rail from the Mall of America into downtown Minneapolis was running on time, as was the Northstar commuter rail from Big Lake into the Warehouse District.

For light rail, which runs from the Mall of America to downtown Minneapolis, there was a “minor collision” between a southbound light rail train and a car near the Hennepin County Government Center at about 8:45 a.m., according to transit spokesman John Siqveland. There were no injuries, and the car drove away from the tracks on its own. Rail passengers experienced minor delays in service, Siqveland added.

As for snow emergencies, Minneapolis and St. Paul aren’t there yet. However, the large west metro suburb of Plymouth has posted one. That means parking is prohibited on city streets until they’ve been plowed from curb to curb.

Friday is the 12th day this month out of 22 with measurable snow. If the Twin Cities gets 4.8 inches, this would become one of the 10 snowiest Februarys on record in the metro, following an early winter with little snow and a summer-fall drought.

The National Weather Service reported that the storm is dropping more snow on southern and southwestern Minnesota than in the Twin Cities area. Claremont, west of Rochester, recorded 8.2 inches. Albert Lea has 7.5 inches, Fairmont in south-central Minnesota has 7.2, Faribault 7,  Worthington in southwestern Minnesota 5 and Northfield 4.2.

Hamburg in Carver County leads the way in the metro with 5.1, followed by Farmington with 5, Lakeville 4.8, Plymouth 4.6, Prior Lake 4.5, North St. Paul 4.1 and Eden Prairie 4.

The precipitation is compliments of a storm that dropped well over a foot of snow Thursday across Kansas and Oklahoma, closed schools and highways, and shuttered legislatures in five states. Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency Thursday morning.

Minnesota schools letting the kids start their weekend early include Blooming Prairie, Blue Earth, Faribault and Triton. Two-hour late starts crept into the southwest metro. Those included Belle Plaine and Jordan. Beyond the metro, delayed starts were occurring in Mankato, Rochester, St. Peter and Chatfield, among others. 

Star Tribune staff writer Tim Harlow contributed to this report. Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482

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