Three people died in crashes on Minnesota roads Friday as winter made a harsh return, bringing with it several inches of snow in parts of the state.
Winds gusting up to 50 miles per hour whipped snow around and caused whiteout conditions on many rural roads.
The storm arrived just a week after Mother Nature treated the state to sunshine and temperatures in the 70s. Light blowing snow fell in the Twin Cities throughout Friday. Authorities reported no extra traffic slowdowns or Metro Transit bus delays.
A 58-year-old St. Paul man was killed Friday night when his pickup truck spun out and rolled over in a ditch on Hwy. 169 in Princeton, in central Minnesota. Snow and ice were on the road at the time of the crash about 9:30 p.m., the State Patrol said. The driver was killed; the State Patrol has not yet released his name.
Northern Minnesota bore the brunt of the treacherous road conditions.
West of Duluth, a 44-year-old man driving a semitrailer truck died when he crashed into the icy St. Louis River. The rig slid off Interstate 35 on an overpass near Scanlon at 4:40 a.m., the State Patrol said. Hours later, authorities recovered the driver’s body from the river.
Later that morning, a 26-year-old man from Pierz, Minn., died when he lost control of his car as he drove south on icy Hwy. 25 in Daggett Brook Township, in Crow Wing County, and was struck by a northbound semitrailer truck, the patrol said. Alvaro A. Rodriguez died at the scene just after 9 a.m. The truck driver, Rodney A. Lund, 60, of Fargo, was not hurt. Both were wearing seat belts.
From 12:01 a.m. to 8:45 p.m. Friday, there were 217 crashes statewide, including the two fatalities, 25 with injuries, as well as 161 spinouts, according to the State Patrol.
A total of 10.6 inches of snow fell in Duluth, breaking the city’s record for daily snowfall on Oct. 27. Almost 11 inches fell near Scanlon, 10.2 in Hermantown, 10 in Finland, 9 in Holyoke, 8.3 in Chisholm and 8 in Moose Lake.
“It’s unusual to have this much snow [this early],” said meteorologist Bryan Howell with the National Weather Service office in Duluth, adding that downtown Duluth had lighter amounts of snow, but “as you go up the hill, it gets worse and worse.”
Duluth typically sees about 1 inch of snow in October. Friday marked the second-highest one-day snowfall total for October in city history.
The University of Minnesota Duluth shut down the campus at 2 p.m. And in Canal Park, high winds and huge Lake Superior waves caused flooding and damaged the Lakewalk Trail, ripping out sections and covering other areas in rocks. Nearby hotel parking lots were flooded and full of debris, from logs to rocks tossed ashore.
“It’s definitely worse,” said Erik Birkeland, manager of parks maintenance in Duluth. “They’re huge [waves]. … It’s a powerful lake.”
In the past two decades, only three years have had measurable snow in October. In the Twin Cities, the last time snow accumulated in October was 2009, and the average date for a first snowfall is Nov. 2, according to the National Weather Service in Chanhassen.
Saturday will bring a return of sunshine to the Twin Cities, but the chill will remain with a high near 38.
In Duluth, crews hope the weather lets up so they can repair the storm damage. “In Minnesota, the amount of snowfall is always a surprise, but it’s not even November yet,” Birkeland said. “That’s when we’re famous for those big rolling waves. It came a little early [this year].”