Rain, sleet and then snow. Each brought its own set of problems as the trio slopped across Minnesota on Saturday, leaving a big mess behind.
With storm culverts already blocked by old snow and ice, the rain pooled on highways and flooded streets.
Then came the snow, making travel even more hazardous as the temperatures dropped and turned roads into skating rinks.
After initial predications that 10 to 12 inches of snow would fall in the Twin Cities, higher-than-expected temperatures that lingered into the evening kept snowfall between 4 and 6 inches. But southern Minnesota was still on track for 10 to 12 inches.
As rain and melted snow pooled around frozen culverts and onto roadways, slushy, snowy conditions led authorities to urge drivers to avoid all travel on highways in parts of the state — and the thick, heavy snow caused a garage near Rochester to collapse.
“With snow and even some icing over drains, there’s not really much else the water can do besides go and try to find a drain,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Tyler Hasenstein.
As the storm moved east Saturday afternoon, snow was slower to overtake rain in the metro area than forecasters initially predicted, leading to less accumulation.
“No, we didn’t get as much snow as we anticipated,” said NWS meteorologist Jim Taggart. “But we’re expecting another storm system next week with rain. We’ll lose the snowpack pretty rapidly.”
It will feel a bit like spring. Rain is expected Tuesday, then Wednesday and Thursday when highs will be in the low 40s.
While the snow still posed a threat, the rain and melted snow became a major concern on highways and city streets. Crews scrambled to unclog storm drains so the rain and melting snow had a place to go.
“Ponding of water is really something to take into account, especially as temperatures start falling,” said Hasenstein.
The rain flooded Hwy. 12 in Independence, according to the West Hennepin Public Safety Department.
“Please use caution in the area and be on the lookout for standing water on roads,” the department said via Twitter. “On the police radio, several cities are experiencing flash flooding on roadways throughout the metro area.”
There were also reports of ponding on highways in south-central Minnesota, and crews were working to unplug frozen culverts, according to the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT).
In the south-central town of Fairmont, city streets filled with standing water Saturday, according to photos posted on Twitter.
In western and southern Minnesota, the wintry mix changed to snow by midday Saturday, causing hazardous road conditions and low visibility. On Saturday afternoon, MnDOT advised drivers to avoid all state highways in Lac qui Parle County, as well as many stretches of highway in Chippewa, Yellow Medicine and Lincoln counties. The warning was later lifted.
More than 170 crashes — including 18 with injuries — were reported on Saturday, with slush sending cars into the ditch and leading to multiple rollovers, according to the Minnesota State Patrol. At least 10 semitrucks jackknifed throughout the state in a 12-hour stretch.
A winter storm warning was in effect until 1 p.m. Sunday for much of central, southern and western Minnesota, including the Twin Cities.
A winter weather advisory covered the far south and southeast, including the Interstate 90 corridor and the cities of Albert Lea and Rochester. Those areas were expected to see 2 to 4 inches of snow. The heaviest snow, up to 12 inches, was expected to fall west and north of the metro area, the NWS said.
Danger to roofs
Unlike recent fluffy snows, this one will be “very difficult to shovel,” said NWS meteorologist Caleb Grunzke.
The heavy, wet snow will also “add extra stress to buildings, which could lead to roof collapses,” the NWS warned. In Plainview, near Rochester, a garage roof collapsed Saturday, smashing into at least two vintage collectible cars, the Post Bulletin reported.
Even after last month’s record snowfall, some found the storm welcome.
Tim Motzko of St. Paul planned to spend Saturday afternoon at Upper Landing Park in St. Paul.
Motzko plays kubb, a cross between bocce ball and horseshoes that’s sometimes called Viking chess, and scoffs at teams that seek out sand courts in the winter.
“We embrace the bold north,” he said. “We’re just going to have fun and get outside.”