Snow fell through the night Wednesday and into Thursday morning, while strong winds left roads covered and created poor visibility.
MINNEAPOLIS — The latest blast of winter weather made some serious impacts across the Twin Cities metro and greater Minnesota into Thursday afternoon.
As motorists began their daily commutes Thursday morning, they found a number of road closings were still in place across southwestern Minnesota. It wasn’t until around 12:30 p.m. that MnDOT announced that impacted state highways, as well as Interstate 90, would reopen between 12:30 and 2 p.m.
MnDOT assistant engineer Scott Morgan said plows started their routes at 3 a.m. Thursday, trying to open lanes on state highways that were closed. He told KARE 11 that while drivers did make some progress, drifts of snow measured 4 feet tall or higher in some spots.
“I hope people use common sense on the roads,” Morgan said.
In the Twin Cities metro Thursday morning, nearly all major highways were considered to be “completely” covered with snow. Hennepin County Roads Operation Manager Andy Kraemer said “very difficult conditions” made it impossible to keep up.
Kraemer said it normally takes his drivers four-and-a-half hours to clear Hennepin County’s 2,200 lane miles, but the rate of snowfall and strong winds covered roads within an hour of being plowed. He explained that plow windshields are heated, but the snow was coming down so hard and fast around 5:30 a.m. that wipers were freezing up, and drivers had to pull off the road to de-ice.
“I know it’s a broken record, but if you don’t have to go out stay home, and watch it out the window,” Kraemer asked.
The State Patrol echoed Kraemer’s plea in a Twitter post Thursday morning. “We looked outside. Lots of our troopers ARE outside. Our best advice: Don’t go out there. Leave your vehicle where it is and stay put.”
It seems many Minnesotans listened, as traffic levels were relatively light. Still, there were some mishaps. The patrol responded to 31 crashes between 7:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m., adding another 38 crashes and 24 spinouts by 3:30 p.m.
Metro Transit riders weren’t spared from the travel headaches on Thursday either, as the transit provider tweeted about multiple cancellations and delays. Several Orange Line trips, rides on the D Line and more were delayed or completely scrapped. Find a full list of affected routes and suggestions for alternative travel here.
Public safety officials have warned everyone to avoid travel if possible. Overnight the National Weather Service shared an image of drifts piled high outside their offices, noting that a car colliding with a 20- to 24-inch deep pile of snow would be “not good” for drivers.
Travelers at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport also felt the impacts of the winter weather over the past few days, with hundreds of flights canceled and waivers issued by most airlines.
At the airport, 243 flights have been canceled and 30 are delayed as of 3 p.m.
On Wednesday, the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) officials said high winds at MSP caused air traffic controllers “shift traffic to other runways.” Nearby residents “may notice unusual flight patterns when these runways are in use,” according to the MAC news release.
If you are scheduled to board a flight at MSP this week, consult the airport website or call your carrier for the latest information on cancelations or delays.
The storm had an impact on local utilities that provide power, too. As of 3 p.m., just four Xcel Energy customers were still experiencing power outages in the Twin Cities, an improvement from the 170 customers who reported a power outage as of 6:30 a.m.
Text and phone notifications are currently unavailable for Xcel Energy customers. Outage notifications will be sent via email until further notice.
Piles of snow inevitably mean that MnDOT and city crews will be out in plows clearing the roads likely into the weekend. Snow emergencies have been declared in both Minneapolis and St. Paul and in many communities surrounding the metro, meaning that an incorrectly parked car could result in a hefty ticket and a tow.
- 9 p.m. Wednesday through 8 a.m. Thursday: No parking on any Snow Emergency Route until 8 a.m. or until the street is fully plowed.
- 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday: No parking on even-numbered sides of non-Snow Emergency Routes until that side of the street is fully plowed; also no parking on either side of a parkway until that parkway is fully plowed.
- 9 p.m. Thursday: All night plow routes will be plowed. Night Plow Routes, which include downtown and all streets with signs posted “Night Plow Route” and “Night Plow Route This Side of Street.”
- 8 a.m. Friday: No parking on any Day Plow Routes (which are not marked with signs). If there are no “Night Plow” signs posted within the block, consider it a Day Plow Route.
- This snow emergency is in effect until 9 p.m. on Feb. 27, 2023.
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