The arrival of a two-day storm expected to dump a heap of snow on the Twin Cities and much of Minnesota led authorities to implore motorists to drive carefully Friday getting home— and then to stay there for the whole weekend.
The snow clearing was well underway Saturday. Minneapolis and St. Paul received 6.1 inches as of 6 a.m., according to the National Weather Service. St. Cloud had 3.3 inches.
Snow emergencies have been declared in Minneapolis and St. Paul.
Hundreds of spinouts and fender-benders were reported through the night, first as commuters tried to get home and out of the weather, and into the morning as roads remained icy.
From 1 a.m. to 8:45 p.m. Friday, there were 490 crashes statewide, with 45 injuries, two of them serious, and one fatality in Crow Wing County, the Minnesota State Patrol reported. The driver of a 1999 Honda Accord died about 3:15 p.m. when that car crossed the centerline on icy Business Hwy. 371 in Brainerd near Brent Drive and hit an oncoming semitrailer truck. The semi driver was not injured.
In the metro area during the same period, there were 288 crashes, with 25 injuries, none of them serious, the patrol said.
For those at work Friday evening, the advice from MnDOT spokesman Kevin Gutknecht was simple: “Leave early if you can.” And once home, stay there, and call off any weekend travel plans, the State Patrol chimed in.
As the storm moves out, a new danger will move in: severe cold. Windchills could be as low as minus 45 degrees, the Weather Service warned.
The combination of heavy snow falling in a short period of time, actual air temperatures that will fall to near 20 below Saturday night and high winds has MnDOT concerned about “washboard conditions” developing on the roads, Gutknecht said.
At those temperatures, salt loses effectiveness and takes longer to work. “We’ll have lots of snow falling at a quick rate and cars packing it down,” he said. “When temperatures drop, it will freeze.”
All of MnDOT’s available plows will remain on the roads starting Friday until cleanup operations are complete, he said. In Hennepin County, 66 plows hit the streets at 2 a.m. Friday and will remain on duty until the storm subsides.
With conditions growing increasingly treacherous, the State Patrol expected to be busy through the night responding to crashes, spinouts and vehicles sliding off roads.
The patrol’s Lt. Robert Zak had this advice for those involved in crashes or spinouts: “Please stay with your vehicle. It might take us a while, but we will come and find you.”
Those planning to travel out of the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport or to pick up travelers there were urged to check flight statuses online, since many flights were affected.
By Monday, a 30-degree temperature jump is in the forecast. Highs by midweek are expected to be in the mid- to upper 20s, which is typical for this time of year, according to the Weather Service.
Staff writer Pamela Miller contributed to this report.