Snow, slush make for sloppy commute, fuel flood fears

Snow along Marshall Ave.
Cars make their way down Marshall Avenue in St. Paul, Minn. during a snowstorm on Wednesday, March 23, 2011. The late winter storm dropped over 11 inches in some areas of the state.
MPR Photo/Steve Mullis

A spring snowstorm blasted much of the state on Wednesday, closing schools and making for a sloppy commute in the Twin Cities.

The wet, slushy snow that covered the Twin Cities early Wednesday made roads slippery and led to spinouts and crashes, including a jackknifed semi carrying 40,000 lbs of eggs on Interstate 94.

The semi blocked the right lane of westbound I-94 near Mounds Boulevard east of St. Paul for most of the day. MnDOT spokesman Kent Barnard said authorities tried to allow rush hour traffic through while also dealing with the truck and broken eggs.

Barnard said roads from the Twin Cities north to Bemidji are in "difficult" driving condition with ice and snow.

"People should, if they don't have to get out on the roads, should wait and save their trips for later in the day when things are in better condition," Barnard said. "If you do have to be out there, give yourself plenty of time, at least double your commute time this morning if not more."

The Minnesota State Patrol reported more than 100 crashes statewide and nearly 200 vehicles off the road between 5 a.m. and 9 a.m. Most of the crashes and about half of the spinouts occurred in the Twin Cities metro area.

Cars along Farrington Street
Cars are blanketed in snow on Farrington Street in St. Paul, Minn. on Wednesday, March 23, 2011. A late winter snowstorm swept through the state and the metro area dropping 3-10 inches in some areas.
MPR Photo/Steve Mullis


Snow and strong winds have caused more than 100 flight delays and cancellations at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport this afternoon.

Travelers should expect delays of one to two hours for arrivals and departures this afternoon and evening, airport spokesperson Melissa Scovronski said.

Thirty-two arrivals have been cancelled and another 26 have been delayed this afternoon. Nineteen departure flights have been cancelled and 63 have been delayed. Several flights have also been diverted from the airport.

Scovronski said most of the delays and cancellations are due to strong cross-winds. Certain types of aircraft are not equipped to handle winds above a certain speed, she said.


MPR Meteorologist Paul Huttner said snow would continue on and off through Wednesday afternoon before tapering off. Between 3 and 6 inches were expected in the Twin Cities, and areas north were expected to see 6-12 inches, Huttner said.

According to the National Weather Services, 11 inches were already on the ground near Lake Mille Lacs, and Little Falls had 10 inches. The northern Twin Cities suburb of Fridley had already reported about 4 inches.

Cooler than normal temperatures will be here through the weekend and early next week before another warmup, he said.

Washed out road
High water washed out Highway 22 between Mankato and St. Peter in southern Minnesota on Wednesday, March 21, 2011.
Photo courtesy MnDOT


The cold temperatures could slow flooding, but the added moisture is bad news for rivers at risk of reaching major flood stage this spring.

Floodwaters have already closed some roads, and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources said Fort Snelling State Park is closed until further notice because of the rising Mississippi River.

Closed roads included parts of Highways 19, 62, 65 and 93. Highway 101 over the Minnesota River in Shakopee closed Wednesday.

MnDOT said Highway 41 in Shakopee will likely close on Thursday due to flooding.

Flood warnings are still up for a couple dozen counties in southern Minnesota.

Some schools were on spring break, but the snow forced others to close or delay.

(MPR reporters Dan Olson and Madeleine Baran contributed to this report.)