MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO/AP) — A fierce storm produced more than a foot of snow in some parts of Minnesota early Friday, where authorities advised against travel and schools closed, once again, during the long, grueling winter.
The fierce winter storm prompted Gov. Mark Dayton to issue an emergency order. Dayton declared the emergency Friday. It calls out the National Guard to help with recovery and sheltering of stranded motorists in parts of central and southeastern Minnesota.
A winter storm dumped almost a foot of snow on many parts of the state, and strong winds have caused visibility. Some major routes have been closed or are considered hazardous due to drifting snow and compacted ice on surfaces. Emergency shelters were opened in some communities.
Dayton’s order is needed to make sure the Guard is mobilized and reimbursed for costs.
Gallery: Viewers’ Snow Photos
PATROL ADVISES ‘NO TRAVEL
The Minnesota State Patrol closed southbound I-35 from Owatonna to the Iowa border shortly after 1 a.m. Friday because of numerous accidents and stranded vehicles, but had partially reopened by 11:30 a.m. Friday. The stretch between the Iowa border and Albert Lea is now open, but the road remains closed between Albert Lea and Owatonna.
Troopers dealt with scores of accidents, including one deadly collision in Wabasha County. The driver of a van was killed in a crash with a semi on ice-covered Highway 42.
Between 2 p.m. Thursday and 10:30 a.m. Friday, State Patrol Lt. Eric Roeske said troopers had responded to more than 400 crashes statewide, and more than 1,300 spinouts or vehicles off the road.
Those numbers also reflected 40 semi trucks jackknifing throughout Minnesota within that same time period.
By late Friday morning, the State Patrol said it was recommending that people simply avoid travel altogether across much of Minnesota.
“We’re receiving reports from veteran troopers in several areas of the state of conditions that are as bad as they’ve seen in 25 years,” said State Patrol Lt. Col. Matt Langer. “We need motorists to avoid traveling unless it’s absolutely necessary. It is simply too dangerous right now and MnDOT needs room to clear the roads of snow and ice.”
A no-travel advisory remains in effect for all of southeastern Minnesota because of blowing snow, icy patches and reduced visibility.
FIRST THE SNOW, THEN MORE BITTER COLD
WCCO director of meteorology Mike Augustyniak said that as the snow has moved out, the bitter cold temperatures have made their return, and they’re not going anywhere anytime soon.
“Abandon all hope for March, at least for the first week or two,” Augustyniak said. “It’s kind of Polar Vortex 3.0, where the core of the coldest air will spill out of Canada and reach the upper Midwest again.”
The heavy, wet snow and strong winds have knocked down power lines, leaving thousands of residents without service. Xcel Energy said it was working Friday morning to restore power to nearly 14,000 customers in Minnesota. Utility crews worked through the night in adverse conditions.
The storm was even worse as it moved into Wisconsin. The barometric sea level pressure readings were almost record-breaking.
“Last night, just after midnight, this was just shy of the strongest storm ever recorded in February in Wisconsin. It just missed being as strong a storm as on Feb. 28, 1902,” Augustyniak said. “Peak snowfall amounts were in St. Louis County and Douglas County, Wisconsin. That was 15 to 18 inches as of 8 a.m., with potentially 1 or 2 more inches before it’s done.”
In northeastern Minnesota, the National Weather Service reported 14½ inches of snow had fallen by Friday morning in Alborn, 13 inches in Twig and 11 inches in Proctor. However, Augustyniak said that snowfall amounts were significantly lower along the state’s western side.
“As expected, in western Minnesota, totals dropped off a lot,” Augustyniak said. “Two inches in Walker, 2 inches in Redwood Falls, and just a half-inch in Minneota.”
Throughout the Twin Cities metro area, most places got anywhere from 8 to 12 inches. Readings at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport were just shy of 10 inches.
SCHOOLS CLOSED, SHELTERS OPEN
Schools closed in the state’s three largest districts — Anoka-Hennepin, Minneapolis and St. Paul.
According to the Department of Public Safety, more than 250 people sought shelter from the winter storm overnight in Minnesota. In particular, 71 people were sheltered at Business Arts and Recreation Center in Cottonwood County.
A blizzard warning issued by the weather service remained in effect until noon for southern Minnesota.
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