Snow Day... NOT!

- wadE

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If you live in the upper Midwest you are well aware of the winter storm currently battering the Twin Cities area.

Many schools, but not all have been cancelled, and the Minnesota Department of Transportation says: MnDOT is advising no unnecessary travel in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area as a winter storm whips through the area.

But I called my company's inclement weather-line this morning and got a cheery voice letting me know we were open for business and all employees should arrive on time to work!

Good f***ing luck!

The following StarTribune article sums it up nicely:

Don't go anywhere unless you have to. MnDOT is advising no unnecessary travel in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area as a winter storm whips through the area.

The return of wintry weather has dumped 3 to 7 inches in the Twin Cities metro area, reducing visibility and causing several spinouts on area roads this morning.

"It's just typical," said Nicole Lange of Minneapolis. Rather than heed the MnDOT warning, Lange took the weather in stride as she brushed heavy snow from her car.

"You just got to expect a winter storm in March. That's just how it goes," Lange said.

Although it was a heavy, wet snow, northerly winds of up to 30 mph were strong enough to create drifts and reduce visibility to 1/8 of a mile in some places. The weather service predicted the precipitation would taper off in the early afternoon.

Snowplow drivers in Washington County reported that 10 to 11 inches had fallen by mid-morning, said Wayne Sandberg, the county's assistant engineer. "They're struggling," he said. "As soon as they clear the roads it's coming back down."

The county's 20 plows began work at 3 a.m. to clear 630 "lane miles" of roads. Two plows were stuck by mid-morning, as were numerous other vehicles, Sandberg said.

He said the county won't be able to spread salt on roadways to make them safer until the snow tapers off.

Meanwhile, dozens of school districts were closed today as the storm swept across central and southern Minnesota.

Many districts in the Twin Cities area called off classes. Those include Shakopee, Stillwater, Rosemount-Eagan-Apple Valley and Roseville.

Minneapolis schools are open, but some buses were running up to two hours late.

That caused some confusion and frustration for some parents who had driven thier kids to school before announcements about the late buses were broadcast on local media outlets just after 7 a.m.

District spokesman Josh Collins said announcements might have gotten out late.

"I do believe there was some confusion about today and getting notices to appropriate places. We never told anybody school was canceled. And we know parents want to know as early as possible. This is a very big storm that has hit everybody in the city, if any parents kept students home, it would count as an excused absence."

Students who made it to school were supervised. In addition, Minneapolis Kids, the district's after-school child care program, will not close at 6 p.m. and will remain open until all children are picked up. However, all afternoon kindergarten classes and after-school activities are canceled.

St. Louis Park canceled garbage pickup for today.

The slick conditions complicated things for Metro Transit, said Julie Johanson, a Metro Transit spokeswoman. A number of buses have slid off roads, but she said all routes are running regular service.

"Obviously, operating trains and buses with the poor weather conditions creates quite a challenge," said Johanson. "We've been getting lots of distress calls from bus drivers who are stuck. We have many tow trucks working to free buses. We are doing all we can to keep buses moving."

Johanson was unable to give an exact number of buses that have encountered difficulty, but she said the road conditions were particularly problematic for the articulated buses. However, the light rail trains were running close to on time as of 8:45 a.m.

One particular bus delay caught Lisa Toney off guard. The Minneapolis resident was waiting for her bus on Nicollet Avenue about 8:45 a.m. when she told a reporter that she would be late for her job at the Mall of America.

"It's crazy," Toney said. "I have to be there at 9:30 but still I'm not going to make it," she said, adding, "I'll be glad when it's over."

It's extremely slow going at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, where heavy snow and high winds were wreaking havoc.

The airport is open, but arriving and departing flights are experiencing an average delay of two hours, said airport spokesman Pat Hogan. The airport normally uses three runways simultaneously, but at 9 a.m. today the airport was using only one and sometimes two runways.

"We've been able to keep up with the plowing, but the blowing wind is causing them to ice over quickly," Hogan said. "The visibility has been just as much as a problem as the snow."

Hogan said a few flights have been cancelled, but most are just delayed. Those traveling should contact their airlines, he said.

As bad as the storm made commuting and flying, it was worse for some metro residents because the storm also knocked down power lines.

As of 11 a.m., Xcel Energy reported about 31,000 customers without power -- about 8,000 in the eastern metro and 23,000 in the western metro. Of that area, the hardest-hit are in the southwestern suburbs.

"The snow is very heavy. We have all available crews out," Xcel spokesman Paul Adelmann said. "We'll get these outages taken care of as quickly as possible." Such outages usually are caused when heavy snow causes tree branches to snap and fall onto power lines, he said.

Though MnDOT sanding trucks are out, many interstate roads remain covered with snow. Commuting delays are reported to be as high as 40 minutes.

The heaviest band of snow moved directly over the Twin Cities, with snow driving sideways in some areas with wind gust of up to 30 miles per hour.

A winter storm warning for the Twin Cities will remain in effect until noon.

Meanwhile, on the roads, MnDOT reported numerous crashes, spinouts and stalls throughout the Twin Cities.

MnDOT spokeswoman Rebecca Arndt says blowing snow is making it particularly hard to see in south-central and southwestern Minnesota.

Arndt says snowplows were called out at 2 a.m., but she doesn't know if they've made any progress.

The winter storm affecting the metro area also pushed across southern Minnesota into western Wisconsin. The National Weather Service says a foot of snow has fallen in Red Wing in southeastern Minnesota. St. James in south-central Minnesota reports eight inches.

Between 6 to 10 inches of snow is expected in a band from Granite Falls to St. Cloud in central Minnesota to the Twin Cities and Ladysmith, Wisconsin. Two to 5 inches of snow is expected north of Austin, Minn. to Black River Falls, Wis..

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