By the time the sun rises Wednesday, the snowstorm that reminded Minnesotans that it’s winter will have passed. But it won’t be smooth sailing.
Metro commuters will face slick roads in the morning.
“We will have worked on the ice and will have put salt down, but there likely will be slippery spots” in the metro, said Kevin Gutknecht, spokesman for the Minnesota Department of Transportation. Plow crews were expected to work through the night, but it could be difficult to get the roads cleared if snow continues to fall through Wednesday’s early morning hours, he said.
“Folks need to allow for extra time and drive slowly,” Gutknecht said.
On Tuesday evening, a pedestrian was killed while she crossed a snowy intersection in downtown Minneapolis during rush hour.
In southern Minnesota, some of the windswept roads that had to be shut down Tuesday because of whiteout conditions could remain closed for part of Wednesday, he said.
By afternoon the sun will peek out, according to the National Weather Service (NWS) in Chanhassen. Although temperatures will be in the low 20s, a northwest wind at 10-15 miles per hour will make it feel like 5 degrees.
The storm that pushed up from the Iowa border and hit the Twin Cities at noon Tuesday dropped 1 to 2 inches of snow each hour, said Lisa Schmit, NWS meteorologist. The northern edge of the storm stretched roughly from Redwood Falls to St. Cloud to south of Duluth, Schmit said.
When all is said and done, some areas will have 10 or more inches of new snow. Snowfall amounts varied widely, with generally deeper totals south of the metro.
It was anything but pretty Tuesday when the storm shut down roads, snarled traffic, sent cars in ditches, grounded airplanes, closed schools and canceled activities.
At Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, 175 flights were canceled and others delayed by as much as five hours, said airport spokesman Patrick Hogan. With high winds and low visibility, flight cancellations and delays escalated through the afternoon and into the evening, he said.
The airport, which normally operates three of its four runways, was down to two during the storm, and sometimes down to one, as plow drivers worked to keep up with the snow.
With most airplanes running at capacity, some passengers faced waits for alternative flights until Wednesday or Thursday, Hogan said.
By 8:30 p.m., the State Patrol reported 370 crashes throughout the state, including 36 that caused injuries. Even with traffic moving slowly, more than 300 spinouts were reported.
Earlier in the day, officials closed Interstate 90 west of Albert Lea after 2 p.m. because of hazardous conditions, and even snowplows were pulled from that and other state highways because of poor visibility. State highways south of Hwy. 14 also were closed in Blue Earth, Brown, Cottonwood, Faribault, Jackson, Martin, Nobles, Rock and Watonwan counties.
Motorists can be fined up to $1,000 and/or sentenced to 90 days in jail for driving on a road that is closed, MnDOT said.
By evening, snow emergencies were declared in Minneapolis, St. Paul and other metro cities, triggering parking restrictions. These were just the second snow emergencies of a winter that so far has seen few snowfalls. Before Tuesday’s storm, the season’s cumulative snowfall was 16 inches below normal, according to the weather service.
Hours earlier, schools canceled afternoon activities.
The snow’s arrival came as folks attending the Winter Cycling Congress kicked off a three-day session to promote winter bicycling.
In a touch of irony, the storm led the St. Paul Winter Carnival to call off its Frozen Family Fun Night.