The southbound lanes of I-35E in the northeast metro have reopened, the Minnesota Department of Transportation said.
A series of spinouts and rollover crashes just past the split with I-35W led to the one-hour closure. Aircare had been on the scene of the wrecks, which led to the freeway being closed at 11:55 a.m. There was not immediate word on how many people were injured.
As snow has tapered off, roads have remained slick. At 12:30. MnDOT traffic maps indicate 19 crashes on metro area freeways and highways.
The rash of crashes comes after Mother Nature shook her snow globe once again Wednesday morning, delivering just enough snow across the metro to grease up roads and another white-knuckle, interminable commute.
By the peak of the rush — more appropriately a crawl — travel times were two and three times as long as on a normal January day as snow covered highways and freeways spawned several crashes and spinouts. Traffic inched along on many inbound routes, including northbound I-35W through Burnsville into Bloomington, eastbound I-94 from Albertville to Maple Grove, and southbound I-35E through Hugo and White Bear Lake.
Snow fell overnight and then started falling again around 6 a.m. Roads were in tough shape from two previous rounds of snow this week. The State Patrol advised motorists to “slow down, buckle up, pay attention, increase your following distance and give yourself extra time.”
Transit users also faced setbacks as 60 percent of Metro Transit buses were behind schedule by 8:30 a.m. Delays averaging 15 minutes left riders standing in the cold as temperatures were in the single digits above zero. Light-rail and the Northstar Commuter trains were on time, Metro Transit said.
The cold weather complicated things for MnDOT as salt and chemicals used to get snow and ice off the road lose their effectiveness, said spokesman Kevin Gutknecht.
A winter weather advisory is in effect until noon Wednesday, the weather service said.
Roads remained partly snow covered in the metro area and completely covered across the west central and central portions of the state, MnDOT said. A full complement of plows were out sanding and plowing, MnDOT said.
As plows do their work, the agency and the State Patrol pleaded for drivers to stay back and give the orange trucks room to work. So far this winter, 30 plows have been involved in crashes. The warning comes after Timothy Ekhoff, 30, of St. Michael struck a plow on westbound Hwy. 10 south of Royalton Tuesday afternoon and died. The snowplow driver was not hurt.
Tuesday was a busy day for law enforcement on state roads. Between 5 a.m. and 8:30 p.m., the State Patrol handled 376 crashes and rendered aid to 453 drivers who spun out or landed in ditches.
As for Tuesday’s snow totals, the most fell in the Willmar area where 7.2 inches piled up. Other totals included 7.1 inches in Eau Claire, Wis., 5.5 inches in Maple Lake, 4.5 inches in White Bear Lake and Dayton, 3.2 inches at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, 3 inches in Prior Lake and 2.8 inches at the National Weather Service office in Chanhassen.