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Upper Midwest storm slam: Minnesota deals with deluge of snow, ice

December 10, 2012|By Amy Hubbard
  • Jean Bohlinger shovels snow Sunday in Winona, Minn. The state had more than a foot of snow after a weekend snowstorm.
Jean Bohlinger shovels snow Sunday in Winona, Minn. The state had more than… ( Joe Ahlquist / Winona Daily…)

Minnesota was recovering Monday morning from a winter weekend snowstorm that dumped as much as 15 inches of snow across the state, closing roads and causing hundreds of crashes. Blizzard conditions were so severe that at one point Sunday snowplows were pulled from the roads.

Making things even worse for morning commuters, temperatures plunged overnight, turning roads icy.

"Temperatures dropped dramatically," Lt. Eric Roeske of the Minnesota Highway Patrol told the Los Angeles Times on Monday morning. "Heavy, wet snow froze, so most roads are snow- and ice-covered this morning."

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From Saturday evening through 6 a.m. Monday, the highway patrol had handled 637 crashes and more than 1,100 spinouts and vehicles off the road, Roeske said, including a fatal crash in southeastern Minnesota. His Twitter account will update crash totals later Monday, he said.

On Sunday afternoon, blizzard conditions spurred the closure of all state highways in the west-central and southwestern parts of Minnesota.

"It wasn't even about getting through the snow," said T.J. Melcher, public affairs coordinator with the Minnesota Department of Transportation in Willmar. When winds picked up, "in the western part of state, we had to pull plows off the road ... because there was zero visibility."

Cars off the road were an obstacle to plows too, he said in an interview Monday with The Times. Two semi tractor-trailer trucks were among the stuck vehicles. But snowplows were able to get back on the roads about midnight, Melcher said, and roads were reopened beginning at 5 a.m., with all but three or four reopened to traffic by 8 a.m. There were scattered school closures across the state.

Overnight temperatures were in the single digits in parts of Minnesota overnight, dropping below zero in the western half of the state, according to the National Weather Service.

This was only the 21st time since 1884 that snowfall in the state has measured more than 10 inches in a calendar day, said meteorologist Jacob Beitlich with the Twin Cities National Weather Service.

But there was a silver lining to the Monday morning mess.

Beitlich, in an interview Monday morning, said that the huge snowfall was a welcome sight for many who were worried about drought conditions in the state.

"There's still a long way to go ... for drought recovery. We had such a dry summer that it's going to take quite a few storms," Beitlich said.  But still, "we're hopeful that we're going to get a good snowpack."


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