The snowfall that hit the Twin Cities on Friday night brought fresh hope to the Nordic skiers, snowblower salespeople and winter lovers out there who had been in a kind of seasonal mourning this week as rain and balmy temperatures washed over the state.
Just how bad has it been? The Minneapolis Ski Club spent the past few days moving truckloads of artificial snow to their Bush Lake ski jumps in Bloomington with the aim of laying it down — by hand — so that they could hold a jumping competition on New Year’s Day.
“It’s been a disaster,” said Chris Broz of the Minneapolis Ski Club.
Snow totals Saturday morning include 3.6" at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and 5.2" at the National Weather Service in Chanhassen. The highest reported total is 6 inches in St. Paul, Circle Pines and Farmington. The State Patrol reported 100 crashes overnight - 12 with injuries. The patrol said there were another 94 vehicles off the road or stalled, No fatal or serious accidents were reported.
On Saturday morning, Minneapolis and St. Paul both declared snow emergencies, to begin at 9 p.m. Saturday.
The band of wintry weather was expected to slide over much of southern Minnesota and western Wisconsin into Saturday morning. The snow should taper off by noon Saturday, with low temperatures following for the next few days, including negative temps overnight Monday and Tuesday.
Snowfall totals previously had been barely half of the 30-year average of 21.2 inches for November and December, with just 10.8 inches of snow recorded in Minneapolis since Nov. 1, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Rick Hiltbrand. (November had 9.4 inches of snow; December saw 1.4 inches, he said.)
Hoping for a change, sales associates at the Eagan Hardware Hank had the Toro snowblowers lined up and ready, said store manager Tanner Hildebrandt. “We’ve got everything,” he said.
Customers were coming in for salt, shovels, ice melt and car brooms Friday afternoon, he said.
Skiers who were elated at snowfalls in early November grew increasingly frantic as the mercury climbed this month.
Kevin Johnson, the manager at Nordic ski retailer Finn Sisu in St. Paul, said the shop did well with business from dedicated ski racers who either traveled to snowier ZIP codes or who skied on artificial snow while waiting for the real stuff. If snow finally comes, he said, he expects to see more recreational skiers showing up in the store.
“If they see snow in the back yard, they know it’s winter,” he said.
Undeterred by rain and 50-degree temperatures in December, the Three Rivers Park District has been blowing artificial snow for Nordic and Alpine skiers at its Hyland Lake and Elm Creek Park Reserves, said spokesman Tom Knisely. Elsewhere in the parks system it’s been kind of quiet.
“The parks that rely on Mother Nature, there’s not a whole lot going on,” he said.
High school Nordic ski coach Ann Rykken said she’s had to cancel some meets as her Minnehaha Academy Nordic team has struggled to find places to ski. The team planned a trip to the Gunflint Trail this weekend, with hopes that they would return to a snow-covered Twin Cities next week.
The funny thing, she said, was that the season started out with cold weather and snow for the first time in her 16 years of coaching. “But we had to cancel our first day of practice because of the snow,” she said. “Nobody was prepared for it.”