Wintry headaches roll into Twin Cities, across state

Published 10:10 am Tuesday, December 3, 2013

By Paul Walsh and Tim Harlow

A steady progression from chilly rain to heavy snow and bone-freezing cold is what Twin Citians are starting to experience as wintry weather rolls into the metro area and throughout the state this week.

Already, three traffic fatalities occurred in less than six hours on wet or icy highways outside of the metro area.

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Temperatures above freezing softened the slop that accumulated on the mainline roads during Monday’s evening rush hour in the metro area, but fog and a light mist created delays for motorists heading into work Tuesday morning.

The dark, murky conditions made it dangerous for pedestrians as at least three were struck by vehicles between 5 and 7 a.m., authorities said. The latest was on E. 38th Street and Park Avenue in Minneapolis.

On the roads, crashes on westbound Interstate 94 bogged down the drive from Woodbury to downtown St. Paul. Mishaps at Woodbury Drive and Ruth Street just before 7 a.m. created a logjam that led to a 25-minute trip into the capital city.

Congestion on eastbound I-94 from Albertville to the Fish Lake Interchange in Maple Grove had drivers spending an extra 10 to 15 minutes in traffic, but no crashes were reported along that stretch.

Crashes abated during the heart of the rush hour, but some of the worst traffic was on westbound I-94 from the Hudson Bridge to downtown St. Paul. At 7:45 a.m., that drive was taking upward of 25 minutes, even though wrecks at Manning Avenue and Ruth Street were cleared.

Two school districts, Duluth and Hermantown, called off classes for the day. And a smattering of school districts were holding off opening for a couple of hours because of the iffy driving conditions. They include Hutchinson and Dassel-Cokato to the west of the Twin Cities and a handful in east-central Minnesota, including Hinckley-Finlayson and Pine City.

The National Weather Service has posted a winter storm warning that takes effect Tuesday night and includes much of the metro area, with anywhere from 6 to 9 inches of snow anticipated.

Once the snow has fallen, the NWS said to expect strong winds to create “near-blizzard conditions over western Minnesota and along the Minnesota River valley.

To the north, up to a foot of snow is being reported in the Duluth area and stretching north to Canada.

Then comes the cold for much of the state and the Twin Cities, according to the Weather Service. Two nights of slipping below zero is forecast to start Friday, tumbling to 7 below by Saturday.

Monday’s string of highway fatalities away from the metro area began shortly after 1 p.m. in far western Minnesota, with Donavan E. Tesch, 85, of Clinton, Minn., dying when his car went off wet Hwy. 7 northwest of Ortonville and into a ditch, according to the State Patrol.

Less than two hours later on slick I-94 in Stearns County, an eastbound semitrailer truck jackknifed east of St. Joseph, crossed the median and stopped in the westbound lanes. Terrence D. Cusick, 52, of Fargo, slid trying in vain to avoid the big rig and died in a collision, the patrol said.

Distributed by MCT Information Services.