Minneapolis

Hundreds of crashes, spinouts as first major snow slams state

2020-10-20 18:29:51 –

A potentially record-breaking October storm is kicking off this year’s snow season, possibly bringing 3 to 7 inches to the metro area and hefty amounts in an area stretching from Interstate 90 in southern Minnesota to Alexandria, Brainerd and Duluth in the north.

Heavy wet snow falling at up to an inch per hour prompted the National Weather Service (NWS) to issue a winter storm warning in effect until 10 p.m. Tuesday.

By early afternoon, snow was falling across much of central and southern Minnesota, with worsening conditions expected. The State Patrol responded to hundreds of crashes and spinouts across the state, reporting 34 injuries, 346 crashes, 345 vehicles off the road, and 17 jackknifed semitrailer trucks between 11 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.

The highest snow totals were expected to be along and just south of the Interstate 94 corridor while smaller totals were expected across northern Minnesota on a line from Fergus Falls to Bemidji and Ely, according to the NWS.

“Have a shovel” at the ready, said NWS meteorologist Brent Hewett.

A U.S. Forest Service spokesperson also urged caution for anyone venturing out on northern Minnesota lakes, with inch-thick ice forming on some local lakes that could catch paddlers ill-prepared, said Kate Legner. To prevent unnecessary search and rescue, visitors to the Superior National Forest are asked to plan ahead for cold weather. Some 6 inches of snow may fall in areas of the Northland.

October snowfalls are not uncommon. From 1884 through 2019, 45 out of 136 Octobers in the Twin Cities have seen at least one day with measurable snow, according to the Minnesota State Climatology Office.

But a snowfall this big is a tad bit early, Hewett said. Storms dropping up to 5 inches of snow generally don’t occur until the last week of October or the first week of November, he said.

Tuesday’s event could etch its way into the record books. The biggest snowfall for Oct. 20 is 3 inches, occurring in 1916, which also is the third-biggest single snowfall ever recorded in October in the Twin Cities.

The second-largest snowfall for the metro in October was 5.5 inches on Oct. 29, 1905, and the record belongs to the Halloween snowstorm of 1991 that dropped 8.2 inches on Oct. 31. By the time that storm wrapped up two days later, the Twin Cities was blanketed with 28.4 inches, weather records show.

“That one will remain untouched for quite a while,” Hewett said of the monster storm.

Any snow that accumulates isn’t likely to stay around long. Temperatures will moderate into the upper 30s Wednesday and into the low 40s Thursday. With the warmer air comes a chance for rain on Wednesday night into Thursday. Another chance of snow showers will come this weekend, and another system could bring more snow Sunday night into Monday, Hewett said.

 

matt.mckinney@startribune.com 612-673-7329

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