Welcome to winter. It was bound to happen sooner or later.
Despite a few balmy November days in the 70s and 60s, it was easy to lull yourself into believing winter was in a land far, far away.
But on Monday, Minnesotans got a healthy dose of heavy, wet snow that forced commuters to slip, slide and slog their way to and from work. A few cities declared snow emergencies while homeowners powered up snowblowers and brought out shovels to clear anywhere from 4 to 8 inches that fell across the metro area and western Minnesota.
Heaviest snowfall totals occurred in the southwestern and west central parts of the state.
Metro area commuters rallying themselves back to work after the Thanksgiving weekend were hit with the first round of snow that dropped 1 to 3 inches around the metro, snarling traffic and sending some drivers into ditches and guardrails. Between 6 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. the State Patrol reported 145 crashes, including nine with injuries, but no fatalities. About 100 cars reported spinning out.
Just as the evening commute began, another couples of inches fell. A third round expected overnight will leave parts of Minnesota with a white winter landscape that warms the hearts of skiers.
For those opposed to winter, well, take heart: The snowfall that amounted to a measly inch or so in some areas arrived later in the season than usual. It was the seventh latest first accumulating snowfall, said Andy Lahr, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Chanhassen. The average first stick-to-the-ground snowfall in the Twin Cities arrives on Nov. 2.
Other than a few snow flurries on Tuesday, Lahr said there doesn’t seem to be any snow in the forecast for the rest of the week. Temperatures will hover in the low to mid 30s for most of the week and hit the upper 30s by Friday, when the normal high is 31, he said. So some of that snow that fell on Monday will be history by Friday.
But Monday provided some Minnesotans a quick reminder of what winter can bring.
As snow began to accumulate, with more predicted on the way Monday, Anoka-Hennepin School District canceled all after-school activities and events, while snow emergencies were declared by some cities, including Bloomington, Crystal, St. Louis Park, Plymouth and West St. Paul. There could be more emergencies declared on Tuesday.
Light rail service also was nicked by the weather during the morning. A green line train heading west along University Avenue near Eustis Street struck a turning vehicle, setting back the rail schedule a bit.
Two articulated buses — the ones that bend in the middle — got stuck on an icy ramp from County Road C to southbound Interstate 35W north of Minneapolis. That was just one of several incidents along the north metro freeway, which was locked up from the Forest Lake split to downtown Minneapolis all morning.
Westbound I-94 struggled from Hudson to downtown St. Paul, with trip times running more than an hour. It was another 30 to 40 minutes over to Minneapolis.
In Woodbury, a jackknifed semi blocked the ramp from westbound I-94 to southbound I-494 for a couple hours, symbolic of the trouble commuters faced all across the Twin Cities.
An early pile-up involving a couple semitrailer trucks on southbound 35W at Hwy. 280 set the tone for the morning. Traffic crawled throughout the metro — many commuters saying their drives to work took twice as long as usual — except in the new MnPass lanes that opened Monday on I-35E between Cayuga Street in St. Paul and Little Canada Road.
“It was the only place in the metro that was free-flowing,” said MnDOT spokeswoman Bobbie Dahlke.
Tim Harlow contributed to this report.