Snow fell fast and furiously across much of Minnesota on Monday and Tuesday morning, whipped by strong winds that blotted out visibility just in time for the evening commute.
In the Twin Cities, stores closed up, commuters lined up for buses early and parking ramps were almost bare, leaving the downtowns eerily quiet as the snow took over.
But the snow slowed overnight and many of the Twin Cities school dictricts, including, Anoka-Hennepin, Minneapolis and St. Paul, announced classes will resume Tuesday after being closed for a day.
Overnight snow totals in the Twin Cities metro area vary from 3 to 8 inches.
“The snow was a little delayed … but as always we stressed the evening rush hour was going to be a mess,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Eric Ahasic. “And it changed to snow pretty quickly and came down hard.”
Winds as high as 50 miles per hour cut visibility and made travel treacherous throughout much of central and southern Minnesota.
Hundreds of accidents were reported with dozens of injuries.
The storm left 6,800 Minnesotans without power. Xcel Energy crews were working to restore power in the metro and the southwestern part of the state.
The storm prompted scores of school districts to cancel classes on Monday, not wanting to risk having to transport students home during the afternoon’s inclement weather.
Earlier this year, the St. Paul Public Schools faced serious backlash when a big snowstorm paralyzed traffic and some students didn’t get home until 10 p.m.
St. Paul, along with Minneapolis, Eden Prairie, Elk River, Orono, Robbinsdale and South Washington County were among districts giving students an unscheduled day off on Monday. St. Cloud State University closed its Plymouth and St. Cloud campuses Monday. Others such as Mankato were dismissing early.
No cancellations for Tuesday were reported as of late Monday night.
Wall of snow
For most of the day, light, freezing rain and sleet dusted the Twin Cities as residents prepared for the intense late-winter snowstorm.
Roads deteriorated quickly after 3 p.m. when a wall of snow pummeled a majority of the state. Whiteout conditions and low visibility were reported in areas south of the metro for several hours.
“Some people called in to say it was some of the worst visibility they’ve seen,” Ahasic said.
An average of 6 to 10 inches fell in the southwest metro, according to the latest numbers from the NWS.
A little further out, New Prague reported 9 inches.
The areas northwest of the Twin Cities were also hit hard: Just before 8 p.m., 8 inches of snow was reported in Willmar and 10 inches at Detroit Lakes, according to the weather service.
Up to a foot was expected in Princeton and Little Falls.
Meanwhile, the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport reported that flights headed to the state were delayed on average by two hours due to snow and ice, according to the flight tracking website FlightAware. Flights leaving in the snowstorm were delayed by more than an hour.
In the Twin Cities, Metro Transit didn’t cancel local service but reported that 25 percent of its buses were delayed as of 7 p.m.
Ice-covered and snow-packed roads in Minnesota contributed to 260 crashes, 36 that resulted in injuries. More than 430 vehicles spun out or went off the road between midnight and mid-evening Monday, the State Patrol reported.
“Slow down, increase following distance, turn on your headlights, clear snow from your vehicle, give plows room, put down the phone so you can pay attention,” the patrol advised.
Metro Bus in St. Cloud announced it had suspended service at 3 p.m. Monday due to “hazardous or impossible” driving conditions.
Initially that included all afternoon Northstar Link buses from the Big Lake rail station to St. Cloud, which would have stranded riders who parked at the station on Monday morning and took the Northstar Commuter line to Minneapolis.
Light snow is expected to taper off into Tuesday morning, with no precipitation expected the rest of the week.
Ahasic said with temperatures hovering below 30 degrees until Friday, “snow will be sticking around longer than what people might like.”