Snow ends in Minnesota; troublesome wind takes over

11:13 AM, Mar 3, 2007   |    comments
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The state's second major snowstorm in a week tapered off Friday after dumping well over a foot of new snow in many areas. Though little new snow was in the forecast, much of southern Minnesota was under a blizzard warning until Friday evening because of high winds. Many schools remained closed around the state, though the University of Minnesota was open again after a rare cancellation of classes on Thursday. "It's a whale of a storm," Gov. Tim Pawlenty pronounced on his Friday morning radio show. Pawlenty, who mobilized the National Guard a day earlier, added that things "are going as well as they could." Much of the Twin Cities got a foot of snow, with amounts as high as 18 inches in the western metro. In northern Minnesota, Finland got a reported 25 inches and Duluth got 18 inches. That made for plenty of shoveling. But the toughest conditions Friday were in southern Minnesota, where blowing snow was the problem. With blizzard warnings in effect, Interstate 35 from Albert Lea south to Ames, Iowa, and Interstate 90 west to Sioux Falls, S.D., remained closed until late Friday afternoon, frustrating stranded travelers and truckers. "All I see is trucks," said Rick Boyer, manager of Trails Truck and Travel Center, where Interstates 90 and 35 converge at Albert Lea. "It's just a sea of trucks." The travel center has parking for 305 trucks, "and I'm sure there's close to 375 now," Boyer said. Longtime employees said it was the worst backup they'd seen in the eight years the center has been open. "Everybody's standing around watching weather reports on our display TVs. They're blocking up the aisles," Boyer said. "When they open up, it's going to be a race track." Both roads reopened about 3:30 p.m., though I-90 remained closed west of Sioux Falls. The Minnesota State Patrol reported surprisingly few crashes from the slippery roads, said a spokesman, Lt. Mark Peterson. "People are getting it," he said. Many also stayed home from work Friday, he added. For the entire storm since Wednesday, the State Patrol said it handled over 400 accidents statewide by midday Friday and that it had also received reports of more than 900 vehicles that had gone off the road. The Patrol on Friday also reported what appeared to be the first fatal accident from the storm. Dustin D. Heydt, 16, of Stewartville, died Friday morning from injuries he suffered in a crash Wednesday night on Highway 52 in Rochester, the Olmsted County medical examiner said. The Patrol said Heydt was driving a car that passed a semi, then lost control and was hit after it spun sideways in front of the truck on the icy highway. The truck driver had no apparent injuries, the Patrol said. Operations were back to normal at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, spokesman Pat Hogan said. But he warned that the terminal was extremely busy as airlines tried to catch up after a day when hundreds of flights were canceled. "People should pack their patience and their carry-on," Hogan said. Eagan-based Northwest Airlines had offered weather waivers for people flying Friday in Minnesota and several cities in Wisconsin. At the state Capitol, where Fridays are traditionally slow, a couple of committees met and a handful more were canceled. Heavy snow was blamed for at least two roof collapses, one a bowling alley in Elk River, the other a warehouse in St. Cloud. Some of Thursday's fiercest weather came in Duluth, where blizzard conditions kept the News Tribune from delivering Friday's paper. In a note to readers, Publisher Marti Buscaglia said the issue would be delivered with Saturday's paper. In south Minneapolis, Brad Peterson and his 10-year-old daughter, Bridget, embraced the snow. "We got past the shoveling and onto the sledding, which is a little more enjoyable," said Brad Peterson, a math teacher who got an unexpected day off. Lyn Rabonovich, 59, was setting out on a long cross-country ski loop around Lake Harriet, also in south Minneapolis. She said she'd gone out at 6 a.m. to ski the sidewalks but found that some neighbors had already cleared them off. "Couldn't they have waited a little longer so I could ski?" she wondered. (Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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