A wintry mix of sleet and snow was causing havoc on Twin Cities roads early Saturday morning, creating slick surfaces and leading to many spinouts and crashes.
From midnight to 10 a.m., the Minnesota Department of Transportation reported 231 crashes and 64 vehicle spinouts. There were 27 non-serious injuries and no fatalities, according to State Patrol Lt. Tiffani Nielsen.
The accidents occurred as a band of heavy snow moved — unusually — from east to north-northwest through the metro area.
“Visibilities will drop quickly to less than a quarter of a mile in this area of heavy snow,” the National Weather Service warned. “Conditions will deteriorate rapidly with this band of heavy snow. Many accidents have occurred across the metro. Be prepared for snow or ice covered roads. Slow down and allow extra time when traveling.”
After a series of warmer days, the department could quickly clear and salt pavement, but drivers were also likely less cautious, said Kevin Gutknecht, spokesman for the Minnesota Department of Transportation. No roads were closed during the storm, he said.
“As is often the case when people in cars drive on snow after a long period of dry roads,” Gutknecht said, “they forget to slow down.”
As of 7 a.m., the National Weather Service reported that 1.3 inches of snow had fallen during a six-hour period at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. A little over an inch fell in the same time period in Chanhassen, with almost an inch in St. Cloud. In southern towns, including New Richland, between 4 and 5 inches of snow were recorded.
The freezing temperatures and air pressure “produced some snow showers that were quite intense,” weather service meteorologist Andy Lahr said Saturday. “It wasn’t your typical set-up where you have several hours of snow in a row; the setup we have was conducive to short bursts of snow that, while they didn’t last very long, packed quite a punch.”
The storm will next move southeast, Lahr said.