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Sudden Winter Storm Brings Damage, Traffic, Power Problems

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First Snow November 2010, winter, weather, storm

This tree went down on the lines going into this house. (credit: Sandy Larson)

(credit: CBS) Rachel Slavik
Rachel Slavik joined the WCCO team in October of 2010 and is thrill...
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By Rachel Slavik, WCCO-TV

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Saturday could be a very cold night for thousands of people in the Twin Cities. Saturday evening, about 65,000 homes were without power.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation had 130 plows working to clear roadways.

The Minnesota State Patrol said there were  461 crashes and 546 vehicles off the road or spinouts statewide Saturday. There was one fatal crash on Highway 60 in southern Minnesota.

Most of the freeways were clear by early afternoon. But hours earlier, drivers got their first taste of a Minnesota winter.

Forget about easing into winter.

“It kind of came all at one time, kind of a summer-to-winter kind of effect,” said Jeff O’Brien. “It’s a shock having this much all at one time.”

With 6 to 10 inches of snow in some areas of the metro, 60-degree temperatures are now just a fleeting memory.

There is a winter storm warning in far northeastern and far eastern Minnesota until 1 p.m. Sunday. It includes Cook, Lake, St. Louis, Carlton and Pine counties.

There also is a winter weather advisory in effect until 6 a.m. Sunday for eastern and northeastern Minnesota, which stretches as far south as Twin Cities.

Click here to see current watches, warnings and advisories.

For Joanne Fontaine the shock wasn’t so much the amount, but the damage it caused. Tree branches sometimes are no match for several heavy inches of snow. It so happens one fell on her car.

“I didn’t know what to do. Basically I just called the city and told them the tree was there, called the insurance company,” said Fontaine.

She wasn’t the only one making phone calls. Thousands of people around the metro had to pick up the phone and make a call to Xcel Energy.

“I thought it was only supposed to be four to six inches. I’m not really sure when it’s supposed to stop. I hope it stops soon though, because I don’t think our house and trees can take anymore,” said Emily Blankenburg, who lost power at her house after trees fell in her yard.

Saturday afternoon more than 65,000 people were without power, the majority of them in the west metro. The customer-owned Dakota Electric Association said 5,000 members had lost power, mainly in Apple Valley, Burnsville and Eagan. Saturday evening, Dakota Electric lowered that number to 2,000. Connexus Energy, with service in the north metro area, said 10,000 were without power.

“I really don’t like not having power,” said Blankenburg. “It went out around 9:30 and we got it back around 11 a.m. in the morning.”

On the roads, some Minnesotans got a crash course in winter driving. State police received nearly 350 calls of accidents and nearly 400 calls of vehicles off the road statewide.

“It’s kind of a shock to get back into driving moving slow, taking your time,” said O’Brien.

Winter has finally arrived in Minnesota, and it’s just the beginning.

“Five more months of this, but we look forward to it,” said O’Brien.

MnDOT said they will let snow dictate how many trucks they have out. If snow stops and roads are clear, they will pull the trucks for a rest. But if the weather takes another turn for the worse, they can put all 130 of them back out.

There are many closings and event cancellations across the state, including a Special Olympics bowling tournament and the state quarterfinal football games at Lakeville and Farmington. Officials remind people to call ahead to see if an event is canceled before going out on the roads.

The record November snowfall is 46.9 inches in 1991. Part of that is due to the storm that started on Halloween and continued for two more days. Average for the month is 10 inches, which some areas reached Saturday alone.

Click here to see if the city you live in has declared a snow emergency.

Click here to see a photo gallery of this winter storm.

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