New record set during Wednesday snowstorm, side streets especially challenging for motorists

February 20, 2019 10:15 PM

A new record for snow in the Twin Cities in February was set Wednesday as periods of heavy snowfall in the metro area continued throughout the day.

As of 6 p.m., the National Weather Service in the Twin Cities reported 9.3 inches of snow had fallen at their headquarters in Chanhassen, 8.9 inches had fallen at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and 7.3 inches had fallen in St. Cloud.

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Flights at MSP were delayed and all runways were closed for a time, though the airport said later Wednesday that one runway had reopened. At one point, airport officials counted a total of 110 pieces of snow removal equipment were active.

KSTP Chief Morning Meteorologist Ken Barlow said the record for snow in February in the metro was previously set in 1962 with 26.5 inches. As of noon Wednesday, 30.4 inches had fallen.

The new snow meant another day off school in many districts, including Minneapolis Public Schools, St. Paul Public Schools and Anoka-Hennepin. And snow emergencies were declared in a number of cities.

A KSTP crew on the roads Wednesday morning said that although they were not particularly slick, blowing snow made seeing the road more difficult.

Minnesota Department of Transportation officials told KSTP timing, temperature and traffic were crews' biggest concerns as they worked to clear roads.

"If the timing is such that the snow comes in when there is a lot of traffic on the road: A: the plows can't get it off because they only move as fast as the traffic; And B: as the snow builds up and accumulates, traffic packs it down and creates compaction, what we call it, which freezes, turns into ice, which turns into slippery roads," MnDOT communications director Kevin Gutknecht said.

In various residential neighborhoods of Minneapolis and St. Paul, drivers headed home from work said they were being especially cautious on snow-capped, iced-over side streets. 

"The roads get very narrow even when you have alternative side parking," said Darius Szewczak of Minneapolis. "They can't get close enough to keep two lanes of traffic going."  

The public works departments in several communities keep a priority list for plowing. Hospitals, ambulance, police and fire routes are cleared first, residential roads tend to be last. 

It's part of why Tim Schwarz of St. Paul didn't venture out in his own car Wednesday, opting instead for light rail.

"With some of these bigger snowfalls, we've been having (trouble) with stop signs," he said. "Sometimes, it's like 'Do I stop all the way and not be able to start again and kind of coast?'"

The Minnesota State Patrol responded to several crashes and spinouts throughout the state, reporting a total of 140 crashes between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Of those crashes, 16 caused injuries. None were serious or fatal.

There were also 218 vehicle spinouts and one jackknifed semi during that time period. State patrol advised drivers to slow down on the roads.

From 4 to 9 p.m., the state patrol reported 68 crashes statewide, 13 with injuries, though none serious or fatal. In addition, there were 105 reports of vehicles spinning out or going off the road and three reports of jacknifed semis over that time period.

MnDOT reported a stretch of Interstate 94 East near Melrose was closed Wednesday afternoon after a snowplow was hit.

Metro Transit reported that by noon, 27 percent of its buses were delayed an average of six minutes.

Meanwhile, city officials in the metro area have asked residents to keep in mind sidewalk clearing rules in the midst of the snowstorm. However, many residents told KSTP they are just tired of shoveling.

"Man it's tough, but that's Minnesota weather," one resident said. "Gotta get used to it, it's going to be cold, it's going to be rough you just gotta be ready, you gotta adapt to it."

Another resident said, "I'm really tired of it, I'm just going to move to Miami."

Find snow emergency information where you live here

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View road conditions and traffic hotspots here

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Credits

Rebecca Omastiak and Beth McDonough

Copyright 2019 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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