Minneapolis waives towing fees after snowstorm; I-90 open in southern Minn.

Helping out
Passersby help out a stuck motorist on Snelling Avenue in St. Paul, Minn., on December 11, 2010.
MPR Photo/Nikki Tundel

In the wake of the major snowstorm that hit Minnesota over the weekend, the city of Minneapolis announced Sunday that all towing fees will be waived.

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak's spokesman John Stiles said the money to pay for towing will either come out of the parking or emergency snow fund. The Public Works director will make the decision.

Stiles said the money will come from the 2010 budget and will not impact next year's budget. He was unsure how much money would be spent, but said it will not be a significant amount.

Mike Kennedy from the city's Department of Public Works said they've plowed emergency routes and are moving on to other roads, including residential streets.

He said people should do their best to get their cars out of the way.

"It's a difficult struggle," Kennedy said. "We totally are aware these are extraordinary conditions."

Kennedy reiterates snow emergency rules remain in place, and officials will ticket and tow cars if necessary.

RUNWAYS OPEN AT MSP

Three runways are open at Minneapolis-St Paul International Airport.

Spokesman Pat Hogan said that means the airport can handle most incoming and outgoing flights.

"The problem we're having is there's still so much snow around all the jet bridges and gate areas," Hogan said. "We worked throughout the night trying to clear as many as we could."

Hogan said there were some flight cancellations and delays Sunday morning, because the weather Saturday diverted planes away from the places they needed to be this morning.

Hogan said the airport is crowded and busy with people waiting for flights.

I-90 REOPENED IN SOUTHERN MINNESOTA

Interstate 90 from Albert Lea to South Dakota has been reopened.

I-90 had been closed since 11 a.m. Saturday because of low visibility.

"We actually had winds recorded at Rushmore, which is along I-90, at 64 mph. The superintendent described it as worse than anything we dealt with last year," MnDOT regional spokeswoman Rebecca Arndt said.

TIME TO DIG OUT

The giant winter storm had moved out of Minnesota by Sunday morning, but dangerous wind chills moved in to replace it. The National Weather Service issued a wind chill advisory for a large swath of the state, including the Twin Cities and Duluth. A blizzard warning remained in effect for southeastern Minnesota.

Minnesotans, many of whom were forced to stay home Saturday because of snow-clogged streets and no public transportation, are digging out.

Snow totals reached 20 inches in some places. Shakopee received the most snow with 21.5 inches. Everywhere else in the Twin Cities area received at least 10 inches.

Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, which was shut down for part of the day on Saturday, received 16.5 inches. That number made it the 8th largest snowfall on record in the Twin Cities. It was the biggest storm since the "Halloween Mega Storm" of 1991, MPR Meteorologist Paul Huttner said.

The snow made travel nearly impossible. Metro Transit had to suspend bus service Saturday afternoon after 70 buses got stuck in the snow. Bus service resumed Sunday morning. Light rail and Northstar commuter trains were also operating.

Snow emergencies were in effect in the Twin Cities and several surrounding suburbs, but side streets were still difficult to navigate on Sunday.

"It's a difficult struggle. We totally are aware these are extraordinary conditions. We haven't had a storm like this in a number of years, so we're just asking people to do the very best they can, and work with us to help us all dig out of this mess," said Mike Kennedy, the Minneapolis public works director.

Kennedy said crews have plowed emergency routes and are moving on to other roads. Parking rules remained in effect, and officials planned to ticket and tow cars if necessary.

MnDOT reported that highways in the Twin Cities area were rated dangerous.

Since midnight Friday, the Minnesota State Patrol reported 169 crashes, including 127 in the Twin Cities. Nineteen of those crashes included injuries but no one was killed.

State Patrol Lt. Eric Roeske said more than 800 vehicles were off the road statewide, including more than 500 in the metro area.

"Overnight the biggest issue [troopers] dealt with was clearing the road of vehicles that had gone off the road or were simply stuck and abandoned by their drivers," Roeske said.

Roeske said officials expected crews would be able to clear roads now that the snow has stopped, but he said blowing snow remained a problem in some areas.

(MPR reporter Tim Nelson contributed to this report.)

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