The Twin Cities narrowly escaped the grips of a big winter storm that socked much of south central and southeastern Minnesota with up to a foot of snow, forcing some schools and businesses to close and MnDOT to advise motorists to take it slow.
Flakes came as close as Hastings in the far southeastern part of the metro, said National Weather Service meteorologist Mike Griesinger, but the landscape Friday is white just down the road in places such as Red Wing, Faribault, Northfield, Owatonna, Rochester and Winona.
From the metro, "you can drive south on I-35 and might say, 'What is the fuss?'," Griesinger said. "Then you hit the Northfield exit and it turns white and by Faribault you have over 8 inches on the ground. Conditions got bad pretty quick."
Blizzard warnings remain in effect Friday morning in places such as Mankato, Jackson, Fairmont, Worthington and Albert Lea as winds gusting as high as 35 miles per hour are blowing the freshly falling snow around. That combination has created tough conditions on the roads, but at 7:15 a.m., MnDOT lifted a no travel advisory that had been in place across the southern tiers of counties and stretching from Jackson County in the southwestern part of the state to as far north as southern Scott County and east to the Mississippi River.
"Travel speeds are slow with drifting and snow compaction on the state highways," the agency said.
Treacherous conditions that led to scores of crashes, including a tanker rollover on westbound I-90 in Olmsted County, kept the State Patrol busy. Between midnight and 11 a.m., the patrol had responded to 287 crashes and 208 vehicles that has spun out or went off the road statewide. A majority of those were in the southeastern part of the state. There were no fatalities, but 38 people were injured, the patrol said. Raymond Grumney Graphic: Interactive: Snowfall forecast
In hard-hit Rochester, the city bus and paratransit service was suspended Friday "due to safety concerns," Rochester Public Transit said. Rochester City Lines canceled its regional commuter bus service for Friday. Close to 12 inches fell in the state's third largest city by midmorning, and another 1 to 3 is on the way, according to the National Weather Service.
"We got whacked," said Rob Miller, president of the Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce, whose offices were closed Friday.
Other place got more. As snow pushed out of southeastern Minnesota and into western Wisconsin Friday morning, Kenyon in Goodhue County was the snowfall leader with 14 inches. Mapleton in Blue Earth County was second with 12.7 inches, according to the National Weather Service. Close behind was Goodhue with 12.5 inches, Waseca with 11.6 inches, 11.5 inches in Elgin, 11 in Wabasha, 10 inches in Pine Island and Zumbrota and 9 inches in Owatonna. Across the border, about 9 inches had fallen near Eau Claire, Wis. Places as close to the Twin Cities such as Baldwin, River Falls and Roberts saw anywhere from half an inch to 1.5 inches, the weather service said.
Not enough snow fell in Cable, Wis. where organizers of this weekend's American Birkebeiner ski races needed it. Due to poor trail conditions, officials around noon Friday called off the 2017 American Birkebeiner, Kortelopet, and Prince Haakon cross-country ski races, an announcement on the event's website said.
The metro area dodged the storm mostly because the system marching across the Central Plains pulled down enough cold, dry air and kept the storm track just south of the Twin Cities, but just barely, Griesinger said.
"It was difficult to forecast," he said. "There was a really tight snowfall gradient. You can go from 6 inches to nothing in 20 miles."
Throughout the day Friday, another band of snow will move across southern Minnesota, but it won't be as intense as the storm that rolled across the southern counties over night, Griesinger said.
Some of that snow could make it to the metro with up to a half inch possible, but it's only a 50-50 probability, the weather service said.
The weekend will be calmer with above normal temperatures, but not 20 to 25 degrees warmer than usual as it was earlier in the week when temperature records were set in the Twin Cities. "It will just be 5 to 10 degrees above normal," Griesinger said.
Mostly sunny to partly sunny conditions will prevail in the metro Saturday through Monday with highs around 33 on Saturday rising to the low 40s by Monday. The next chance of precipitation will come Monday night into Tuesday when a mix of rain and snow is forecast, the weather service said.
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