Winter storm brings icy roads, travel headaches

Snow weighs down tree branches in Minneapolis.
Snow weighs down tree branches as cars cruise through an icy intersection in Minneapolis on Tuesday.
Evan Frost | MPR News

Updated: 10:14 a.m. | Posted: 6:47 a.m.

Instant winter arrived Monday dumping snow and ice on roads statewide. By 10 a.m. Tuesday, more than 400 crashes had been reported — one fatal — along with 515 spinouts or vehicles off the road.

Traffic was a veritable mess Tuesday, as a layer of ice coated interstates and city streets. Sidewalks and driveways, left slick by rain Monday night, also made walking treacherous.

This spinout on Interstate 35W at Cliff Road.
This spinout on Interstate 35W at Cliff Road in the south metro was among many that happened even before 6 a.m. on Twin Cities freeways Tuesday. Many roads were left ice-covered by overnight rain.
Courtesy of Minnesota Department of Transportation

"It's brutal," said Minnesota Department of Transportation spokesperson Kevin Gutknecht. "Based on the weather I saw yesterday, we had rain, lots of nice moisture, but the wind that was supposed to come through and kind of dry things off, didn't really come through and dry things off. We had snow fall on wet roads, the temps dropped off."

He and other authorities urged drivers to plan ahead and leave plenty of time for slow travel, to turn on their headlights, buckle their seatbelts and keep their speed down while they get familiar again with winter driving.

Gutknecht said MnDOT plows are out all over the state, but that ice is difficult to plow and cold temperatures make it difficult to melt. Parts of northern Minnesota were barely above zero Tuesday morning, and in the upper teens as far south as the Iowa state line.

A man clears snow, ice and leaves from the sidewalk in Minneapolis.
A man clears snow, ice and leaves from the sidewalk in front of an apartment building on Lyndale Avenue in Minneapolis on Tuesday.
Evan Frost | MPR News

"It's going to be a challenge this morning," Gutknecht said. "The morning commute is going to be long and arduous. We've had a pretty mild fall and we're being reintroduced to winter."

He also urged drivers to focus on the road, and not offer their family, friends or co-workers in-route road reports via their smartphones.

"Distracted driving is a significant issue, and this is a bad day to be distracted. The icy roads and congested traffic are going to be distraction enough," he said.

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