People in Minnesota and western Wisconsin are digging out Monday after the biggest snowstorm in nearly two years dumped more than a foot of snow in many areas.
In Minnesota, Sacred Heart — a small town about 100 miles west of the Twin Cities — saw the deepest snowfall. A report from an observer there put the snowfall from this weekend's storm at 17.3 inches early Monday.
It even froze out the breakfast rush at Kathy's Place, a diner.
"A lot of our breakfast crowd comes in from the country and a lot of those roads haven't been plowed yet," said Tamara Hegge, who works at Kathy's Place.
And that's the story across much of the state. Snowfall stretched from 3 inches in International Falls near the Canadian border to 4 inches in Preston, near the Iowa border. In between, the snow piled up to more than a foot across a swath of central Minnesota and western Wisconsin, from the little town of Hendricks, on the South Dakota border, east through the Twin Cities to Eau Claire, Wis.
The snow closed schools in Forest Lake, Cambridge, Isanti and Hudson, Wis. and prompted dozens of late starts, including the Minnesota State College and University campuses across southwestern Minnesota.
COMMUTE SNARLED IN TWIN CITIES
The snow made for a difficult Monday morning commute in the Twin Cities, stretching typical delays well into the workday. John Siqveland, spokesman for Metro Transit, said a handful of buses got stuck and others were delayed.
"During the peak of the peak at 8 a.m. we had 542 buses out on 114 routes all over the metro," Siqveland said. "Fifty-four percent of them were able to stay on schedule. The average delay for the late buses got up to about 8 and a half minutes."
But Siqveland also said that commuters looking for alternatives to the slippery roads packed the Northstar commuter trains, where ridership was up about 25 percent over a week ago.
The last major storm in the region was in the third week of February 2011. By comparison, last winter featured a 80-degree day in March, and not a single snow emergency in Minneapolis.
It's been an unusual stretch of mild weather, according to University of Minnesota climatologist Mark Seeley.
"Last year was as close as we get to a non-winter here in Minnesota," Seeley said.
It's also been a dry stretch. Seeley said even the thick blanket of snow that fell across the region isn't going to do much to help the drought that has parched much of the southwestern quarter of the state.
"For example, Chanhassen got 1.01 inches of liquid precipitation out of this," Seeley said. "They got 13.6 inches of snow, and 1.01 inches of liquid equivalent, and that's the most in a 24-hour period they've had since July 24."
But some parts of the state remain as much as 12 inches behind the normal annual rate of precipitation.
A HAPPY BUSINESSMAN
Still, businesses that benefit from winter weather are grateful for whatever they can get.
Mike Frattalone says his family's chain of 18 hardware stores did gangbuster business during the storm.
"Hundreds of snowblowers over this weekend," Frattalone said. "Thousands of shovels. Ice melt, roof cables, roof pucks for melting ice build-up on your roof."
It was a welcome relief, compared to other years, he said.
"We have to buy this stuff in the middle of summer. We don't just order it on Tuesday to come in Friday before the snowfall on Saturday," he said. "It gets [to be] kind of desperate feeling when you're sitting there, looking at $1 million worth of snowblowers."
But while the snow has stopped falling, the storm technically isn't over. St. Paul is still wrapping up the second day of its snow emergency, and Minneapolis has another day to go. There's no parking in Minneapolis on the even side of non-snow emergency routes until 8 p.m. and no parking on parkways. Tomorrow is no parking on the odd side of most streets.
• Follow Tim Nelson on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/timnelson_mpr