Blizzard conditions, flooding, power outages as winter storm wallops Duluth

Blizzard conditions and big Lake Superior waves in Duluth
Pedestrians make their way through driving snow and strong winds on Saturday during blizzard conditions in Duluth.
Derek Montgomery for MPR News

Updated: 9 p.m.

Blizzard conditions and power outages hit Duluth on Saturday, as the city took the brunt of a winter storm bringing a variety of precipitation to Minnesota.

Just before 9 p.m., the city announced that it had “closed access to Park Point for non-residents. The Duluth Police Department is checking identification before the Aerial Lift Bridge.”

Meanwhile several streets had been closed by flooding, including Morse Street, Buchanan Street and the Lighthouse Parking Lot in Canal Park, and Harbor Drive behind the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center.

Harbor Drive is closed near the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center
Harbor Drive is closed near the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center on Saturday because of flooding amid blizzard conditions affecting Duluth.
Derek Montgomery for MPR News

A lakeshore flood warning is in effect for Duluth through Sunday evening as strong east winds and high water levels on Lake Superior are combining to create mammoth waves and a surge of water along the Duluth lakeshore and in the Duluth-Superior harbor.

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“The National Weather Service has said that wind gusts will remain high throughout the night. The City of Duluth will continue to monitor roadways and areas for potential flooding,” city officials posted in an online update at about 7:30 p.m.

Earlier in the day, just after 4 p.m. the National Weather Service in Duluth reported "very dangerous blizzard conditions" with heavy snow, east winds gusting to 43 mph and visibility of less than a quarter-mile at the airport. Winds continued to increase through the evening hours, with a 54 mph gust reported at 7:37 p.m.

A blizzard warning remains in effect for Duluth and parts of the North Shore through noon Sunday, and the city has issued a no-travel advisory. The Minnesota Department of Transportation was advising no travel on Interstate 35 between Duluth and Cloquet and several other northeastern Minnesota highways as of 9 p.m. Saturday.

Minnesota Power reported about 1,000 customers without power in the Duluth area as of 5:15 p.m. Saturday, including most of Park Point. The utility said repairs were in progress, and the Park Point outage was restored by 5:45 p.m. By 9 p.m., the overall number of customers without power had dropped to less than 100.

The Duluth Transit Authority announced that it was suspending bus service for the night at 5:30 p.m. due to unsafe driving conditions.

The National Weather Service reported that blizzard conditions and lakeshore flooding are forecast to continue overnight in Duluth, with additional snowfall of 8 to 16 inches. The Duluth airport reported 8.5 inches of snow through 8 p.m. Saturday.

"Please be patient with plow drivers as this is expected to be a historic storm," the city reported in a news release Saturday. "Plowing could take longer, from the amount of snow projected to fall."

Workers remove snow from the seats at TCF Bank Stadium
Workers remove freshly fallen snow from the seats at TCF Bank Stadium prior to a college football game between the Minnesota Gophers and Wisconsin Badgers on Saturday in Minneapolis.
Kerem Yücel for MPR News

Elsewhere in Minnesota

Elsewhere in the state, winter storm warnings remain in effect for much of northern and central Minnesota through Sunday morning.

Additional snowfall of 6 to 12 inches is possible overnight in the warning area, especially from Bemidji and Alexandria east toward St. Cloud, Grand Rapids, Brainerd and Hinckley.

A winter storm warning that had been in effect for much of the Twin Cities metro area has been downgraded to a less-severe winter weather advisory. A mix of rain, sleet and snow is forecast to change over all snow on Saturday night. Accumulations through Sunday morning may reach 2 to 5 inches, with the highest totals in the north metro.

An initial round of snow early Saturday caused difficult travel across much of Minnesota. The State Patrol reported 130 crashes on state highways across Minnesota from 10 p.m. Friday through 10 a.m. Saturday, along with 210 vehicles spun out or in the ditch, and five jackknifed semis.

The overnight snow also meant the University of Minnesota had to have crews clear the seats at TCF Bank Stadium ahead of Saturday's big college football game against Wisconsin. And it provided a wintry atmosphere for ESPN's live "College GameDay" broadcast from Northrop Mall on campus.

Neighboring states

The South Dakota Department of Transportation reported that Interstate 90 was closed from Chamberlain west to the Wyoming border, at least until Sunday morning when conditions would be reassessed.

Authorities also were advising no travel in the Aberdeen and Huron areas, and points west.

In North Dakota, authorities were advising no travel in most of the northern half of the state, including the Grand Forks area and Interstate 29 from Grand Forks to the Canadian border.