MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — After two days with highs in the 40s, a winter storm slammed into Minnesota Thursday, bringing blizzard conditions to the southern part of the state and threatening to dump well over 10 inches of snow overnight in the eastern-most counties.
Both Minneapolis and St. Paul declared snow emergencies, along with several other cities across the state. The Department of Transportation (MnDOT) said Thursday night that crews will be plowing roads overnight — as long as there is viability — to help clear the way for the morning commute.
WEB EXTRA: Click here for more snow emergency information.
By 10 p.m. Thursday, there were reports of 10 inches of snow in Grand Meadow, south of Rochester. Meanwhile in St. Michael, in the northwest metro, 8 inches fell, according to members of the WCCO Weather Watcher Network.
On Thursday night, MnDOT issued travel advisories for counties in west-central and southern Minnesota. Whiteout conditions in those parts made travel hazardous, and people were advised to stay home.
The State Patrol said troopers responded to 174 crashes across the state. One of those was fatal, and it happened in Wabasha County on Highway 42 near the intersection of Township Road 234. Two of the day’s crashes involved serious injuries, and 15 involved non-serious injuries.
Nearly 30,000 Xcel Energy customers lost power Thursday night as snowfall and strong winds beat on power lines. In the Twin Cities, 3,137 customers were without power in the west metro, and 12,976 customers were without power in the east metro, the utility’s website said. In order to restore power, extra crews were the job.
Temperatures hovered around freezing Thursday, but they are expected to drop considerably as an arctic front moves in over the weekend.
According to WCCO-TV chief meteorologist Chris Shaffer, Minnesota snow total predictions are:
Twin Cities — 6 – 10 inches
Southern Minn. — 6 – 10 inches
Southeastern Minn. — 3 – 6 inches
Northeastern Minn. — 10 – 16 inches
West-central Minn. — 3 – 6 inches
Western Minn. — A dusting to 3 inches
Southern, West-Central Minnesota: Blizzard Conditions
The National Weather Service issued a blizzard warning for several counties in southern Minnesota. The area affected extended to communities along the Minnesota River, Interstate 35, south of New Market, and the Interstate 90 corridor between Albert Lea and Fairmont. On Thursday evening, the blizzard warning was extended to include west-central Minnesota, communities west of the line from Alexandria to Redwood Falls.
According to the Department of Transportation, conditions on roads throughout southern and west-central Minnesota were hazardous Thursday night and travel was not advised. Visibility in many areas dropped to less than a mile.
Snow is expected to fall at a steady clip (1 to 3 inches per hour) amid strong winds throughout the evening. Whiteout conditions will likely occur as snow is blown about by wind gusts of up to 50 mph.
Schools in southern Minnesota closed Thursday, and Minnesota State Mankato canceled its evening classes.
Thundersnow was also seen in southeastern Minnesota earlier Thursday, as heavy rain showers turned to snow.
The Metro: Nasty Commute, Foot Of Snow Possible
Parts of the Twin Cities, which are under a winter storm warning until Friday, could get more than a foot of snow. The further east you are, the more snow you are expected to get. Also, wind gusts of 40 mph are possible overnight.
Meteorologist Mike Augustyniak said that the snow is going to make for difficult driving conditions all throughout the metro area during the overnight hours.
“It’s just going to be a nasty stretch of winter ahead,” he said.
MnDOT officials said that Thursday morning’s rain washed away the chemicals used to treat the roads. However, highways are expected to be in much better shape Friday morning, after plows have had a chance to clear the way.
Metro Transit expected buses in the Twin Cities to experience trouble on the slushy roads. Officials said they are monitoring key routes and will add buses to those that become backed up.
Minneapolis Public Schools canceled all after-school and evening activities and meetings because of the weather.
Eastern Minnesota/Western Wisconsin: Snow, Snow, Snow
By Friday morning, upwards of 10 inches of snow could be found along the line from Winona, Minn., to Eau Claire, Wis., the National Weather Service said.
As of 6 p.m., snowfall in Hudson, Wis., had already reached over 5 inches.
Communities around Duluth and in the arrowhead could see anywhere from 10 to 16 inches of snow.
During the evening hours, winds are expected to be in the 25 to 35 mph range, with gusts capable of reaching 50 mph.
On the Minnesota side of the Mississippi, whiteout conditions are possible, especially on the ridge tops and north of La Crosse.
MSP: Game Of Standby
The Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport had more than 100 workers on the clock Thursday, trying to keep the runways clear of snow as travelers waited on standby after hundreds of flights were canceled.
Airport spokesman Patrick Hogan said MSP is used to dealing with a half inch of snow an hour, but the airport is expecting to see twice that amount.
“We are expecting to get an inch of snow an hour this afternoon, so it’s going to be really putting us to the test,” Hogan said.
Working in shifts, crews were on schedule Thursday to plow the runways every 20 minutes.
“It’s really an orchestrated kind of effort,” Hogan said. “We have to make sure we are working with the FAA tower, with the pilots, trying to figure out when the runways will be closed.”
Travelers likes Lauren Wahlstrom had their flights canceled multiple times.
“My original one totally canceled,” Wahlstrom said. “Then they put me on one to Chicago, it totally canceled. Then they put me on standby for three flights, [I’m] hoping to make one.”
The Federal Aviation Administration issued a travel advisory for MSP, saying the average flight was delayed more than two hours.
From Wednesday night into Thursday, the airport canceled 250 flights. Hogan said there’ll likely be 100 flights canceled Friday morning, depending on conditions.