The Twin Cities' greatest February snowfall on record produced yet another day of slow going, spinouts and heavy lifting as the winter slouched heavily onward.
Impound lots in Minneapolis and St. Paul will likely be busy Tuesday due to another round of snow emergencies -- the most either city has called in a single winter.
Efforts to clear major highways and thoroughfares of well over a foot of snow for the second time this winter were aided by a Presidents' Day holiday that kept school buses and some commuters off the streets. But those who did venture out found most metro roads were still snow-covered and slippery, said Kent Barnard, Minnesota Department of Transportation spokesman. Those conditions could continue in some areas Tuesday, even though Barnard said snowplow crews hit the streets at 8 a.m. Saturday, even before the storm really got started. "And we'll continue until we get 'er done."
The heavy, wet snow has been difficult for crews to move, Barnard said. But the recent meltdown gave them more space to store it, he said. Even after plowing, though, roads and streets will likely be narrow once again, and piles at intersections will block visibility again, said Mike Kennedy, Minneapolis street maintenance supervisor.
The State Patrol reported 404 crashes statewide between 6 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday, with 44 of them involving injuries. Three people died Monday night in a crash about 7 p.m. on an icy Hwy. 23 in Morrison County, just west of Little Falls.
Five State Patrol squad cars were struck by other vehicles during the storm, resulting in three injuries.
Spokesman Lt. Eric Roeske said a trooper was taken to a St. Cloud hospital with noncritical injuries after his patrol car was struck Monday by a semitrailer truck on Interstate 94 southwest of St. Cloud. Trooper Mike Bell stopped in the left lane of I-94 to tend to another crash when the semi's driver moved from the left to the right lane "a little late," Roeske said, and struck the rear of the squad car. The westbound lanes were temporarily closed, and the crash is under investigation.
Another trooper was slightly injured while assisting at an accident on Interstate 394 in Minneapolis Sunday.
The patrol was not expecting any trouble spots for travel overnight, Roeske said, "if everyone uses common sense."
Operations were returning to normal at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport late Monday after the storm prompted Delta Airlines to cancel hundreds of flights Sunday, although hourlong delays were reported.
Airport spokeswoman Melissa Scovronski said about 60 departures and 100 arrivals were canceled early Monday.
The storm also dealt another winter wallop to other parts of the Midwest, dropping more than 10 inches on towns in the Dakotas, Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.
Ice downed power lines in Michigan and Ohio, leaving tens of thousands of people without electricity.
AAA Michigan spokeswoman Nancy Cain said the organization took more than 4,000 requests for assistance after spinouts and minor accidents Sunday and Monday morning.
Second whopper snowfall
The official Twin Cities storm snowfall total, measured at Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport, was 13.4 inches, representing the second snowfall of more than 1 foot this winter. That hasn't happened in 19 years, since the winter of the great Halloween blizzard in 1991. Three winters in the early 1980s featured such double-dumps.
With 74.5 inches of snow this season as of 6 p.m. Monday, this winter is already the 11th snowiest on record in the Twin Cities. Ahead lies March, the region's second-snowiest month. The winter snowfall record for the Twin Cities is 98.6 inches, set in 1983-84, a winter that had the deepest single snowfall at 11.4 inches.
The snow has been a boon for skiers, snowmobilers and ice-dam removal companies, but anyone thinking of buying a snowblower at this point may be out of luck.
Despite extending production of snowblowers into January, Toro is essentially sold out for the season, said Matt Medden, senior marketing manager for Toro's snowblowing business. Usually, snowblower production winds down in mid-December to make way for lawnmower production.
"Once [manufacturers] sell out, you're not getting any more," said Derek Hron, manager at Johnson Hardware in Bloomington. His store ordered about 100 snowblowers at the end of last summer and has about 25 left. He expects the remaining snowblowers to be "flying out" of his shop in the next couple of days.
Winter-storm injuries brought in about 75 people to Regions Hospital, about 45 people to Fairview Ridges Hospital and more than 30 people to Hennepin County Medical Center.
"This is just the first wave," said Oriana Beaudet, HCMC emergency room nursing supervisor. "We'll see more people who tried to manage their injury come in throughout the week." Tim Burke, spokesman for Allina Hospitals and Clinics, added that this winter has probably caused many people to find their physical limits.
"If you got to this part of the winter, you're probably smart enough to figure it out," Burke said. "By the middle of winter, they're ready to pay the neighbor kid."
But not Amy Woodward of St. Paul. Woodward was out shoveling more than 200 feet of corner-lot sidewalk Tuesday because the family's aged snowblower had conked out dealing with the 17-inch snowfall in December.
Woodward said the task would probably take about five hours but didn't seem to mind a bit. She said she expected to be taking lots of hot chocolate breaks with her toddler daughter, Marais.
"The only thing I'm discouraged about is the spring thaw and the flooding," she said. "That being said, we live in Minnesota. I enjoy the change of seasons. I wouldn't want 70 all the time. I like snow and Christmas, the change of the leaves in the fall and the promise of spring."
Katherine Lymn, a University of Minnesota student on assignment for the Star Tribune, and staff writers Paul Walsh, Mary Lynn Smith, Anthony Lonetree, Chao Xiong and Kevin Duchschere contributed to this report.
Bill McAuliffe • 612-673-7646