Video: Blast of winter weather hits Minnesota

  1. Transcript of: Blast of winter weather hits Minnesota

    LESTER HOLT, anchor: The largest November snowfall in two decades moved through Minnesota today, dumping nearly a foot of snow in some parts of the Twin Cities and catching a lot of people by surprise. We have more tonight on the first big snowstorm of the season from Janel Klein , who's in Minneapolis tonight for The Weather

    Channel. Janel: Well, Lester , this storm is the first of the season, and it also came somewhat unexpectedly. Yesterday temperatures here were in the 60s, today there's a foot of snow; taking the Midwest from fall to winter overnight. The snowstorm took many residents by surprise.

    JANEL KLEIN reporting: When they said snow, they didn't say blizzard.

    Unidentified Woman #1: It's very wet, windy.

    Unidentified Woman #2: And slippery.

    Unidentified Man #1: After an unusually warm fall with record-breaking October temperatures and in November daytime highs in the 60s, nine inches of snow fell in northwest Minneapolis , and along the Minnesota - Iowa border up to 14 inches of snow.

    KLEIN: This is not actually a very strong storm, but it has been very persistent. And by virtue of that fact, we've gotten an awful lot of snow.

    Mr. CARL PARKER (The Weather Channel): At the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport , passengers faced canceled flights and delays of two hours as airport workers tried to keep the runways clear. Only two of the airport's four runways were operational.

    KLEIN: I'll be frustrated tomorrow if I'm still here and I can't get out.

    Unidentified Man #2: Hopefully we'll get on a flight today and we'll be able to get home.

    Unidentified Woman #3: And the heavy, wet snow created slippery conditions on the roads, slowing traffic to a crawl.

    KLEIN: The roads were very slick; sloppy, heavy snow causing many vehicles to lose control and go off the road.

    Lieutenant ERIC ROESKE: The snow weighed heavily on power lines, too. Sixty-five thousand customers lost power in the Twin Cities area. People camping out overnight in Minneapolis to raise money for the homeless braved the elements for their cause.

    KLEIN: Kids have had great fun. They've been building snowmen and playing in the snow, having snowball fights. You know, what you do when you get the first snow.

    Unidentified Man #3: Well, the Minnesota State Patrol says the storm sent nearly 300 cars off the road and caused 400 crashes; one reminder, Lester , that winter is here and so is dangerous winter driving.

    KLEIN: All right, Janel , thank you.

    HOLT:

msnbc.com news services
updated 11/13/2010 9:09:36 PM ET 2010-11-14T02:09:36

Twin Cities area residents dug out from the season's first wintry storm Saturday as the system that roared through the area, leaving about a foot of snow on the ground, also was blamed for a double-fatal car collision in northern Wisconsin.

Officials in both state said responded to hundreds of car crashes and calls for vehicles that slid off slick roads. The wet heavy snow also downed trees and caused sporadic power outages.

A "tough season opener," is how Minneapolis State Patrol's Lt. Eric Roeske termed it for NBC News.

The blustery storm moved east late Saturday with more rain than snow as it approached the Great Lakes.

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Snow and ice caused delays of nearly 90 minutes early Saturday afternoon at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International/Wold-Chamberlain Airport, but the FAA reported no delays later.

Vehicular travel was yet to recover as plows worked to clear heavy, wet accumulations from roads, Roeske told NBC News.

Troopers were dealing with 342 crashes statewide and 395 vehicles sliding or spinning off the road, mostly in the southern third of Minnesota, he said.

The sheriff's department in Wisconsin's Bayfield County said the storm produced "rapidly deteriorating road conditions" that likely contributed to a crash that killed both drivers and left a passenger hospitalized.

Kevin Kraujalis of the National Weather Service's Duluth office estimated that Bayfield County had a couple of inches of snow on the ground when the collision occurred. The meteorologist said the county had about 5 inches as of 6 p.m. Saturday.

There were no other immediate reports of fatalities or major injuries.

St. Paul Police Cmdr. Jack Serier said officers responded to 20 to 30 car accidents by noon, with many of the collisions involving four or five vehicles. Most drivers were being careful, he said, but they were skidding on a glaze of ice that developed under much of the snow pack.

"There was nothing reckless," he said. "But when they hit that ice, no matter what they tried to do they spun out of control."

Image: Snow in St. Paul, Minn.
Andy King  /  AP
Jack Sand shovels snow in St Paul, Minn., where the first snow of the season arrived early Saturday.

The storm prompted the postponement of at least two football games: The Minnesota State-Mankato's website Saturday said the school's home game against Minnesota Duluth was postponed and officials were considering rescheduling options; The Gustavus and Carleton College game was pushed back to Sunday at 1 p.m.

As of mid-afternoon, just over 65,000 Xcel customers were without power, with another 10,000 out elsewhere in Minnesota, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported. At one point or another, more than 115,000 Xcel customers were affected by the storm.

"We've gotten a ton of reports of tree branches coming down, taking power lines out," company spokesman Tom Hoen told the newspaper. "As we get people back up, we get another half-dozen calls saying their power's out."

"This is just ridiculous," Hoen said. "It's an absolute nightmare out there."

Todd Krause, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Minneapolis, said the storm system that swept through the area Saturday morning dumped 11 inches in Eden Prairie and 10 inches in the Forest Lake and Mankato areas.

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He said a few snow showers may linger through Sunday but nothing significant.

"People will still see snowflakes across much of Minnesota (on Sunday) but it won't be adding up to anything," he said.

The storm caught some by surprise as temperatures Friday were in the 60s, causing residents to put down rakes and pick up snow shovels or rev up snowblowers.

Parts of north-central Wisconsin could see up to an inch of snow, but most areas were getting an inch or two of rain Saturday afternoon.

Meteorologist Paul Douglas blogged for the Star Tribune that the storm was will be recorded as the Twin Cities' largest pre-Thanksgiving storm in 19 years.

A winter storm warning remained in effect for the Northland region including, Hinckley, Duluth and Grand Marais, Minn., with winds up to 40 mph accompanying snow and rain, roads remaining slick and visibility reduced.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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