Twin Cities bracing for a foot of snow, winter storm

Published 6:30 am Monday, November 10, 2014

By Kristi Belcamino and Maja Beckstrom, Pioneer Press

ST. PAUL — Feeling haunted by the 1991 Halloween blizzard?

The first major winter storm of the season is expected to pack quite a punch — dumping as much as a foot of snow starting Monday morning.

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“If this thing pans out the way we’re thinking, it will definitely be the largest snowstorm for November since the great 1991 Halloween early-November storm,” said meteorologist Tony Zaleski of the National Weather Service’s Chanhassen office.

The weather service predicts “100 percent chance of heavy snow” to hit the Twin Cities before Monday morning’s commute, dwindling to flurries by Tuesday afternoon.

Total amounts could range from 10 inches in the southern metro to 14 inches over Minneapolis and St. Paul. The northern suburbs could see 15 to 17 inches, Zaleski said.

The most intense snowfall is forecast for early Monday afternoon, with snowfall rates of 1 to 2 inches per hour in the Twin Cities, the weather service said.

Compare that to the Halloween blizzard, where 8.2 inches of snow fell the first day. Four days later, when the storm was over, the Twin Cities had accumulated a total of 28.4 inches, setting a record for most snowfall in the metro area during the month of October.

St. Paul city workers started preparing for the storm Saturday night by spreading salt on main streets in the city.

“We are as ready as we can be for this first storm,” City Engineer John Maczko said Sunday. “Conversion of our fleet of trucks for plowing operations began in earnest today.”

Temperatures are expected to plummet this week, with a possible low of 9 degrees overnight Tuesday, which could make it difficult to keep streets clear.

Maczko said a heavy, wet snowfall, followed by single-digit temperatures, is a worst-case scenario for any public works agency.

“Wet snow compacts quickly, and if combined with a precipitous drop in air temperature, it bonds to the pavement and is very difficult for our plows to remove. Colder temperatures also compromise the effectiveness of our chemicals.”

Schools across the region were preparing to make decisions about whether to cancel classes on Monday.

“We’re pretty much standing at the ready,” said Julie Schultz Brown, spokeswoman for St. Paul Public Schools. “We’ll be out early at 3 a.m. on the roads and we’ll make the decision early in the morning.”

Brown said that while the schools’ new weather cancellation policy clarifies that closures for cold weather will be made the evening before, snow days won’t be called until 5 a.m. on the day they’re declared.

“With snow, anything can happen in the middle of the night to change a forecast,” she said.

St. Paul Public Schools does not delay start times or release students early for weather reasons. If after-school activities are canceled, they will be announced by 10 a.m. Parents will receive automated phone calls at home if school is canceled, Brown said, and also can check the schools’ website, Twitter and

Twin Citians were stocking up on groceries, shovels and snowblowers.

At the St. Paul Midway SuperTarget late Sunday afternoon, customers walked the aisles hauling lime-green shovels and ice scrapers. Only a few snow shovels remained, an employee said, because they’d flown off the shelves all day.

Gretchen Kregness bought two snow shovels after hers broke in last year’s spirit-breaking winter.

Parents were rushing to replace winter gear their kids had outgrown, including Heidi Mischke of St. Paul, whose 10-year-old daughter needed new snowboots.

Jonathan Robb of St. Paul was on his third stop with his 7-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son. He was at Target buying new snowpants for his daughter, had stopped at Menards for ice melt and bought sweaters for himself at Costco.

Neil and Theresa Reinert bought windshield washer fluid at SuperTarget. Theresa Reinert has work off Monday and planned to stay home and clean — and avoid going outside — she said.

A few people were delighted with the forecast.

Ella Vold of St. Paul picked up a sled for her two children at SuperTarget, knowing they would sell out fast. If they get a chance, her family plans to use the sled and “capitalize on the fresh snow.”

Finn Sisu ski shop in Lauderdale had a blizzard of business Sunday.

“We are just swamped here,” owner Ahvo Taipale said. “Everybody is talking about the snow and looking forward to it. The excitement is here. If we get 4 to 6 inches, I’m going to be out at Battle Creek on my skis.”

A few people made plans to avoid the roads altogether.

“I’m supposed to drive from St. Paul to Waseca tomorrow to teach a class, but it won’t be happening,” said Baya Clare on the Pioneer Press Facebook page. “Instead, I’m going to be commuting around between the rooms of my house. I don’t expect to encounter any icy patches, but I may have to step over a cat.”

The residents who might be the most disappointed could include Lee Waage of Golden Valley, who was sitting by the pool Sunday in Palm Springs, Calif., soaking in the 90 degree weather while keeping an eye on the weather forecast for his trip home Monday and wondering if his flight was going to be canceled.

“Sounds like it’s going to be a bad day for all travel,” he said.

The trip to Palm Springs, taken by Waage and at least 20 other people he knows from the Twin Cities, is going to be a far cry from what awaits them back home.

Waage called the trip “one last bit of sanity before winter kicks in for us at home.”