The Twin Cities metro area was pelted by rain and sleet early Saturday morning, part of a slow-moving weekend storm system that could also bring hazardous conditions to the north and west.
Numerous crashes and spinouts have been reported on the slick roads. The Minnesota State Patrol said from 5 to 10 a.m. that there were 357 crashes statewide; two people were killed in St. Cloud and Lino Lakes, and 34 people were injured in other crashes. Spinouts numbered 149, with 13 jackknifed semitrailer trucks.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation was among the agencies advising no travel unless absolutely necessary because of "icy roads caused by rain, wet snow and freezing temperatures," according to a prepared statement. It was not anticipating road closures, but said motorists may encounter blocked roads where crashes have occurred.
It said that road crews "have been out in force" since early morning but that multiple rounds of freezing rain continue to cause glare ice.
The department also offered winter driving tips: Drive slowly on bridges, overpasses and tunnels. Use a safe speed for winter driving conditions, regardless of the posted speed limit. Maintain a safe stopping distance. Keep both hands on the steering wheel and eyes on the road, and stay alert.
The State Patrol also advised no travel, and reminded drivers that if they are involved in a crash to remain in their vehicle with their seat belt on.
The National Weather Service said road conditions are expected to improve as temperatures rise. It said freezing rain will fall as another round of precipitation moves into the metro area from the south. Most of the metro is expected to transition to just rain by noon.
Metro Transit has suspended bus service, saying it will resume as soon as possible, while rail service continues to operate. This is the first time Metro Transit has suspended bus service since 2011, said spokesman Howie Padilla. "It sounds horrendous," he said of driving conditions in the Twin Cities metro area.
Metro Mobility drivers will continue to operate where roads are free of ice and where safe operation is possible, the Metropolitan Council said, and asked riders to cancel unnecessary trips.
Hennepin County said libraries will opening at 11 a.m. today. Minneapolis solid waste and recycling collection is postponed until Monday. Many garbage haulers in St. Paul suspended collection.
Twin Cities area residents took to social media to document the icy conditions. Mark Norgren showed a young skater in Savage.
CrimeWatchMpls showed this accident scene on Hwy. 36 at Edgerton Street.
A winter storm warning went into effect at 3 a.m. Saturday and will linger until 6 a.m. Monday for much of western and northwestern Minnesota. Cities as far-flung as International Falls, Bemidji, Hibbing, Ely, Grand Marais, Fergus Falls, Morris and Marshall woke up to snow and sleet early Saturday, according to the National Weather Service.
By Sunday night, those areas could have several inches of snow, with blustery winds gusting as high as 30 miles per hour. The St. Cloud area could see 2 to 5 inches, with 6 to 11 inches possible in Alexandria. Monday could bring even more snow and wind.
Travel is not recommended in those areas this weekend, the Weather Service warned. The state Department of Transportation will provide frequently updated road reports at https://hb.511mn.org.
In the Twin Cities and in an area extending north to Duluth and southwest to Mankato, Albert Lea and Worthington, a less dire winter weather advisory went into effect at 6 a.m. Saturday and will last until just 3 p.m. Saturday. Precipitation in those areas will be largely in the form of freezing rain and sleet, later turning to just rain, the Weather Service said. Some thunder is also possible.
On Sunday, when the metro area high will be 45, rain will fall much of the day, turning to snow and sleet later in the day. Monday will be colder, with a high of just 31, and 1 to 3 inches of snowfall likely.
Southeastern Minnesota, including the city of Rochester, will be largely spared any precipitation but rain, the Weather Service said. However, it warned that minor flooding of streams and rivers in that area is possible.
So far, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day look to be dry, the Weather Service said, with a low of 17 on Tuesday night and a high of 31 on the first day of 2020.