More than a week into the baseball season and nearly three weeks into official spring, a wintry storm crawling across the country could leave up to a foot of snow in parts of southern Minnesota by the time it ends Thursday.

Some schools in western Minnesota closed early Tuesday, while drivers found tough going on highways across the region as the first blasts of snow arrived in the state.

In the Twin Cities metro area, hopeful glances at the garden will halt for several more days. Overnight sleet turned to all snow this morning. A second round will total 6 to 12 inches by Thursday.

The snow won’t actually end up that deep on the ground, though, said Bill Borghoff, meteorologist at the Twin Cities office of the National Weather Service. It will be so wet that it will compact on the ground and some will melt, Borghoff said.

High temperatures Wednesday and Thursday will are expected to be above freezing.

The storm is part of a massive system that brought more than a foot of snow to parts of western Nebraska on Tuesday, and caused the temperature to drop 58 degrees in 15 hours at Denver. The weather service posted severe thunderstorm watches and warnings across the southern plains early Tuesday evening.

One bit of good news back here: Minneapolis residents won’t have to worry about a snow emergency, since city officials are prohibited from calling one after April 1.

The forecast led some customers at the REI store in Roseville to dig through the supply of gloves Tuesday — although the supply was in clearance bins. With the sales floor dominated by bicycles and spring clothing, most winter stuff is available on an ask-for basis, said sales manager Joe Ojczyk.

“This can be a tough time of year,” Ojczyk added. “The ski areas are closed. People want to go biking and running, but you can’t do that either. You have to figure out a way to stay active indoors or get bundled up and go outside.”

Spring will arrive

Bill Robiner, director of health psychology at the University of Minnesota Medical School, offered some advice for dealing with that kind of seasonal frustration: Relax, he said. Don’t get your expectations too high. Spring will get here.

“I’m confident people will be able to cope with this even though they might feel a little challenged in some ways, thinking ‘Here we go again,’ when they might prefer to be out on bicycles or tending the garden,” Robiner said. “But anyone who’s ever moved to Minnesota knows there’s extreme weather, and here’s confirmation of that.

“It is a test of patience. But we can get snow in May and October. This isn’t the wildest extreme. It’s still the first half of April, and we could also have had 80-degree weather. I think of this as a challenge to us to be flexible human beings.”

Indeed, snow is not at all unusual in April in the Twin Cities — even deep snow. The average April accumulation over 125 years is 3.6 inches, but the record is 21.8, set in 1983. April of 2002 brought 20.2 inches.

Baseball weather

The Minnesota Twins are on the road, in Kansas City, but they’ll be back at Target Field on Friday. Team spokesman Kevin Smith said grounds crews will likely blow and cart away most of the snow that falls on the field, letting heat pipes under the surface melt the rest in time for the Friday-Sunday series with the New York Mets. As they did for Opening Day, they’ll also melt snow out of the seating areas with hot-water hoses.

Highs on Saturday and Sunday are expected to be in the mid-40s — “10 degrees higher than we had on Opening Day,” Smith noted.

“Having lived through snow in June, nothing surprises me,” Smith said. “If I’d lived here only 10 months and had just come from L.A., I’m pretty much thinking, ‘What are we doing here?’ But it’s the folks who whine and complain about it the least who cope with it the best.”

A word of advice: Slow down

Kennedy said a dozen Minneapolis street department trucks still have full plowing equipment attached, down from 40 in midwinter. But all of them can have front blades reattached quickly. He planned to call some drivers in to work overnight.

Driving on highways in southwestern Minnesota was rated as difficult late Tuesday afternoon, but snow had tapered off through the day. MnDOT spokesman Kevin Gutknecht said temperatures above freezing should help keep roads clear — a good thing, since rain would wash away any de-icing chemicals the department might otherwise put on the roads as the storm approaches.

“Regardless, people need to pay attention, take their time and slow down. Give the plows room to work and we’ll get through this,” Gutknecht said.

Despite the wintry conditions, an indisputable sign of spring also arrived in the Twin Cities. The first towboat of the season arrived in St. Paul at 3 a.m. Tuesday, carrying a load of fertilizer, effectively opening the river shipping season.


Staff writer Paul Walsh and the Associated Press contributed to this report.