Minnesotans fired up snowblowers and wielded shovels Wednesday to dig out from under the biggest November snowstorm to hit the state in nearly two decades — and that’s just the beginning of the wintry weather.
The forecast calls for additional precipitation as soon as Friday evening, with the potential to further snarl Thanksgiving holiday weekend travel with another 6-inch blanket of heavy snow. By Saturday afternoon, flakes are likely to turn to freezing rain and a wintry mix as tens of thousands of fans flock to TCF Bank Stadium for the big football game between the Gophers and Badgers.
“There will be implications from the weather, but it shouldn’t be anything that would ruin the experience,” said Brent Hewett, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Chanhassen. “We’re hearty Minnesotans, so we can throw on a few extra layers, get a poncho on and stand out there to root for the team.”
Across the state, snowfall totals from Tuesday night into Wednesday ranged from 5 inches to a foot. From 9:45 p.m. Tuesday to 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, the State Patrol responded to 385 crashes, 565 spinouts and 24 jackknifed semitrailer trucks.
But blustery winds added to the challenge of removing the heavy, wet snow, which compacted and froze on pavement, creating a washboard effect. Bridges and ramps were particularly icy, said Anne Meyer, a MnDOT spokeswoman.
In St. Paul, plows were tackling main streets on Wednesday before clearing residential streets once the snow emergency went into effect later in the evening. Other streets won’t get plowed until Friday, said Lisa Hiebert of the city’s Public Works Department.
On the University of Minnesota campus, where classes were canceled because of the storm, dozens of people worked in shifts to get TCF Bank Stadium ready for Saturday’s game.
The vendor that cleans the stadium for the U had put out a call for workers willing to shovel — for $14 an hour — to clear snow from the stadium’s stands, perhaps hoping to attract students at the U and other schools that canceled classes because of the storm.
Thomas Bagnoli, 18, a student at St. Paul Academy, had the day off from school and couldn’t pass up the chance to earn some cash for the holidays. He also wanted to make sure football fans had a good time during the game. “I want those going to the game to be rowdy,” he said. “And I want them to have good seats.”
The effort didn’t go unnoticed. Gophers Coach P.J. Fleck stopped practice on the field, grabbed a microphone and shouted a message to the shovelers.
“Thank you for all you do to clear the stadium,” he said. “It means a lot to this team.”
For travelers, the storm initially slowed operations at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport just as the rush of holiday travel began.
The airport was down to one runway early Wednesday, but all three were back open by 8 a.m., airport officials said.
The State Patrol issued reminders for drivers, encouraging them to slow down, increase following distances and put away all distractions.
One of the crashes involved a snowplow. Meyer reminded motorists to be cautious and stay at least 10 car lengths behind the massive snow-moving vehicles.
Metro-area snow totals included 12 inches in Prior Lake, 9.5 inches in Minnetonka, 9.2 inches at the airport and 8 inches in Falcon Heights, according to the Weather Service.
The coming weekend’s wintry mix won’t result in more than a few extra inches in the Twin Cities, but meteorologists expect St. Cloud and cities to its north to be walloped by up to a foot of heavy snow between Friday and Sunday.
Whatever does fall will contribute to the year’s record for wet weather, set during the Tuesday-Wednesday snowfall. The metro area’s official weather reporting station has received 40.81 inches of precipitation this year, eclipsing the 40.32 inches that fell in 2016, the Weather Service said.
Staff writer Liz Sawyer contributed to this report.