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Luke, left, and Darcy Burton checked out the Ice Castle at the Mall of America, braving Tuesday’s chill with mother Lisa Burton. It will get much colder by Thursday.

Joel Koyama, Dml - Star Tribune

Ack! Icy cold is back for a few days

  • Article by: BILL McAULIFFE and PAUL WALSH
  • Star Tribune
  • January 29, 2013 - 11:14 PM

Southern Minnesotans are in for several more days of tricky footing as falling temperatures transform Tuesday's slush and puddles into a regionwide patchwork of second-hand ice.

Twin Cities temperatures were expected to drop overnight and all through Wednesday before finally bottoming out Friday morning at about minus 11. Strong winds overnight were expected to bring some drying to streets and sidewalks, although there was also a small chance of snow flurries.

St. Paul public works spokesman Dave Hunt noted that those conditions could create patches of ice that could catch drivers and pedestrians by surprise.

Tuesday brought cries of "Whoa!" as residents encountered a smooth coating of ice on steps and sidewalks.

By late Tuesday morning, Hennepin Emergency Services, which handles 911 calls in the state's most-populous county, said it had responded to more than 90 calls -- half of them involving falls.

Allina Health's United Hospital in St. Paul reported that among 27 emergency room patients received Tuesday morning, 12 were treated for injuries -- short of broken bones -- from falls on icy surfaces, and another two were banged up in vehicle crashes on slick roads.

"We are seeing a pretty significant influx of patients," said Doug Schlangen, United's emergency room manager. "Arms, back, head, ankles, you name it -- they are bonking everything." Folks coming in are "all over the board" across generations, he said. "They are as young as 18 and as old as 82."

The scene was much the same at numerous other Allina hospitals, according to spokeswoman Gloria O'Connell, who reported 50 fall cases at Mercy in Coon Rapids.

"We are inundated with patients who fell on ice," O'Connell said, noting that some have suffered broken ankles, toes and wrists.

At Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis, at least 30 patients were treated for falls, with suspected head injuries among the consequences, said spokeswoman Christine Hill.

The University of Minnesota Medical Center, which receives emergency patients at its East and West Bank locations, said it had treated 12 people for falls and three snow shovelers for chest pain as of Tuesday afternoon.

The ice was the result of freezing rain that fell overnight. As residents and public works crews attacked it and temperatures across southern Minnesota crept above freezing, much of the ice melted or was at least tamed. Michael Zampino, project manager at Nicollet Ace Hardware in south Minneapolis, said sand, ice-melter, grit and ice-grippers that strap onto shoes were the day's popular items.

To the north and west, the precipitation fell Monday night as snow, and plenty of it. Detroit Lakes received 12 inches and Bemidji 11.5 from a narrow band that traveled northeast across the state, closing some schools.

John Munger, executive director of the City of Lakes Loppet winter festival scheduled for this weekend in Minneapolis, said although Sunday's snowfall had turned to mush, it helped restore ski trails for the event. Some races might have to be shortened, but not by much, he said.

"I'm looking forward to the temperatures dropping," he said.

Slight chances of snow are in the forecast through Thursday afternoon. After the Friday cold snap, a high near 30 Sunday is likely to remove ice once again from treated streets and sidewalks.

Bill McAuliffe • 612-673-7646

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