Twin Cities, much of southern Minnesota digging out from first major snowfall of the winter

A winter biker in a cityscape
A cyclist pedals toward downtown Minneapolis on the Hiawatha LRT Trail on Thursday.
Ben Hovland | MPR News

Updated: 2:15 p.m.

Much of southern Minnesota woke up to a rare sight Thursday — rare for this strange winter, at least: a significant snowfall.

A winter storm dropped more than a half-foot of snow on parts of the region, by far the largest snowfall of the season for many locations.

The snow exited the state early Thursday, leaving icy roads and a handful of school delays in its wake. It was a welcome sight to people who’ve been waiting to get out sledding and skiing — including organizers of the World Cup cross-country ski races that’ll bring elite athletes from around the world to Minneapolis this weekend.

Race officials have been challenged for weeks by unseasonably mild temperatures and a lack of natural snow.

“It’s magic,” said Claire Wilson, executive director of the Loppet Foundation which is hosting the races. “ ‘Someone loves the Loppet,’ is what we said. It’s thrilling to have it come now.”

The National Weather Service reported 6.9 inches of snow as of midnight at Minneapolis–Saint Paul International Airport — that’s a record for Feb. 14, and nearly double the amount of snow the airport had previously received the entire winter.

The season total before Wednesday in the Twin Cities was just 7.3 inches. It now stands at 14.2 inches — which is still more than 20 inches below normal, and more than 40 inches less snow than the Twin Cities had received at this point last winter.

Snow illuminated by a camera flash
Heavy snow falls in south Minneapolis on Wednesday night.
Ben Hovland | MPR News

Minnesota snowfall totals from this storm

  • 7.5 inches — Coates

  • 7.2 inches — Shakopee, Victoria

  • 7 inches — Norwood Young America, Plato, Chanhassen

  • 6.5 inches — Bloomington, Edina, Waconia, Richfield

  • 6 inches — Oakdale, Isanti, Prior Lake, Hendricks, Ghent

  • 5.5 inches — Cottage Grove, New London, Maple Plain

  • 5 inches — Stacy, Milan, Marshall, Watertown, Kimball

  • 4.4 inches — North Branch

  • 3 inches — North Mankato

  • 2.5 inches — Waite Park

  • 2.1 inches — Zumbro Falls

  • 1.8 inches — Rochester

The northern half of Minnesota largely missed out on this round of snow.

A person uses a snow blower
Alan Ruiz of Arsa Landscaping clears a sidewalk in Minneapolis on Thursday.
Ben Hovland | MPR News

School delays, difficult driving, snow emergencies

A few school districts in Minnesota and western Wisconsin delayed the start of classes Thursday, to give plow crews a little more time to clear the roads.

School districts that ran on a 2-hour delay Thursday included Hutchinson, Wabasso, Lakeview and Cedar Mountain, as well as Hudson, Wis.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation reported icy roads across the southern half of Minnesota early Thursday. The snow caused difficult driving as it fell on Wednesday afternoon and evening, and that continued amid the icy conditions overnight.

The State Patrol reported 471 crashes on state and federal highways in Minnesota between 7 a.m. Wednesday and 1 p.m. Thursday, and an additional 381 spinouts or vehicles off the road. The Patrol also responded to 14 jackknifed semis.

The cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul did not declare snow emergencies or other winter parking rules, focusing instead on clearing snow from driving lanes.

Snow illuminated by a camera flash
Heavy snow falls in south Minneapolis on Wednesday night, during the first major snowstorm of the season.
Ben Hovland | MPR News

“By not declaring a snow emergency, we are plowing residential streets a day earlier and are able to leverage the warmer pavement conditions, sun and warmer temperatures forecast ... to address snow compaction in the drive lanes,” Sean Kershaw, director of public works for the city of St. Paul, said in a news release.

While there isn’t a formal snow emergency, the city of St. Paul said in the news release, “if people are able to move vehicles off streets, it is appreciated by the plow drivers, and they will attempt to clear snow to the curb where possible.”

Some other cities across Minnesota did declare snow emergencies, including Richfield and Ortonville.

The Twin Cities airport reported a few dozen delayed flights as of Thursday afternoon, but no cancellations.

Metro Transit reported delays on about a quarter of its Twin Cities bus routes through the morning hours, with an average delay of only a few minutes. There were no delays reported on light rail or Northstar lines.

Minnesota utilities were not reporting any widespread power outages as of Thursday afternoon.

Cooler conditions are expected statewide on Thursday, with highs in the teens and 20s. But temperatures are expected to rebound into the 30s and possibly the 40s by Sunday and Monday — meaning the freshly fallen snow may not last for long.

Chicken statue in snow03
A snow-covered chicken statue in Richfield on Thursday.
Gracie Stockton | MPR News

Here’s how to keep tabs on forecasts, travel conditions and flight updates.

Forecast updates

Travel conditions

These state transportation departments offer live updates on road conditions and crashes:

For bus and light rail riders in the Twin Cities, Metro Transit offers weather-related updates on its Metro Transit and Metro Transit Alerts Twitter pages, as well as on its website.

Flight updates

If you’re planning to fly from Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport or another airport around the region — or if you are expecting visitors to arrive by plane — airports offer flight status updates online: