A look at how the snowstorm impacted Minnesota

A man shovels snow from the sidewalk.
Stephen Yoakam shovels the front of his house after a snowfall in Minneapolis on Wednesday.
Kerem Yücel | MPR News

Heavy snow has blanketed much of southern and eastern Minnesota this week.

Though the storm was not quite as historic as predicted by some early forecasts, it has posed challenges for travel and parking across the region.

MPR News host Angela Davis checked in with MPR News reporters and drivers about the storm conditions around the state. She also talked with Kevin Reed, Interim director of Minnesota Homeland Security and Emergency Management, a division of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, and Lt. Gordon Shank, public information officer with the Minnesota State Patrol. They gave advice what to do if someone is involved in an accident.

Here are some highlights of the conversation.

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The following transcript has been edited for length and clarity. Click the audio player above to listen to the full conversation.

What to do if you get stranded or in a crash

Kevin Reed: The first thing is to call 911. Secondly, stay within your vehicle because that's going to be the safest place for you. We're going to tell you to bring some stuff, a blanket, a hat because you know it's going to be cold. Take time to figure out what your route is and what possibly could happen. Make sure you have a charger and make sure you have the things that you would need just to sit tight for a little while because it may delay somebody coming to help you.

Lt. Gordon Shank: We've noticed our crashes aren't as high as some people might have thought they'd been. And I think that's just because drivers are waiting to go out until conditions improve. We hope people continue to do that. If you have to go out, give yourself extra time, plenty of time to get where you need to go and drive slower than the speed limit. If you have to go on the exit ramps, know that those are some of our challenging areas where we do see a lot of crashes and vehicles off-road. If you do, unfortunately, find yourself in a ditch or a crash, if you can move that crash off the freeway, we ask you to do that. It's safer for everybody involved. Buckle up and call 911. We'll get there as soon as we can but we need to know where you're at. The safest place to be is sitting inside your vehicle.

A person scoops a shovelful of snow off
Zach Bruns, 16, scoops a shovelful of snow off of a neighbors driveway as Bruns and his friends cleared snow for money on Thursday in Mankato, Minn.
Jackson Forderer for MPR News

What did Minnesota look like during the storm?

Our colleagues all around the state shared their opinions and experiences. Let’s explore what they said.

‘Wind gusts in the Twin Cities were upwards of 40 miles an hour overnight’

The problem with removing snow in this situation is that it blows it back over the roads or your driveway. That's all the MnDOT crews are really gonna have to deal with today. The snow is winding down but it's going to take a while to clean up, especially until that wind dies down, which really won't come until probably the evening hours Thursday.

Friday morning the wind will be much lighter, but a breeze will make it feel more like it's in the teens below zero in the Metro area, and 30s below zero for wind chills in the west central part state.

– Sven Sundgaard, MPR News meteorologist 

‘Like looking into a snow globe’

I live in New Ulm, southwestern Minnesota. It's difficult to exactly tell how much new snow fell overnight because there's so much blowing and drifting. We've been shoveling frequently to stay ahead of the snow. 

More than a half a dozen counties have at least some roads closed in southwestern Minnesota. But I should say that it's not uncommon for us to close roads down because of wind causing snow to drop and reducing visibility. I haven't heard too many reports of drivers getting stranded. Overall, I feel like there was a lot of preparation and planning that seems to have made things a lot smoother than the storm we had around the holidays.

– Hannah Yang, MPR News reporter

An aerial view captures the extent of snow coverage
An aerial view captures the extent of snow coverage on the road in southern Minneapolis following a recent snowfall on Thursday.
Kerem Yücel | MPR News

‘This last inch of snow is the tough one’

I talked to Anne Meyer this morning from MnDOT and she said: “It's this last inch, even if it looks clear, this last inch is a tough one. For drivers, it's going to be compacted and slippery. For plows, it's very difficult to get up. So they're going to be going at it all day.” On all these interstates, you're gonna see county plows, city plows … we're into the tough nut of the winter here. 

Safety barriers are up to a certain height and at some point, the snow gets so high that a car will go up the snow and clear a safety barrier. So you're gonna see heavy equipment out this weekend and loaders clearing those guardrails and those bridge decks so that they are as safe as they are when there's no snow there. People are heeding this warning to stay off the roads. 

– Tim Nelson, MPR News reporter

‘Airport traffic has not been chaotic’

It's been a pretty quiet morning at the airport. The same for yesterday. We have had about 300 canceled flights so far this morning, but I think folks probably found out that their flight was canceled when they were at home or at a hotel. I'm looking at the check-in lines right now. They're not long. Folks are able to just sort of walk in, check in and get to their scheduled flight. 

The common theme among a lot of the folks who were getting here this morning was the roads were a mess. But a lot of them were also just staying at nearby hotels and took a shuttle. That's actually what I did to avoid the drive this morning. I can only imagine what the freeways were like this morning.

– Sarah Thamer, MPR News reporter

A bald eagle protecting eggs in a nest amid fresh snow
A still image from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources' EagleCam shows a bald eagle protecting eggs in a nest amid fresh snow on Thursday.
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

Delayed and closed schools

My kids are not happy about school being late, they were really hoping for a snow day today. I have been checking around and it looks like a lot of schools are closed since yesterday in the St. Cloud area and today they are having e-learning days. So it kind of varies. 

Schools were waiting just to see what the snowfall totals actually were and I think they were a little bit less than some of the initial predictions. So they're hoping that things clear up. I know the plows are out on our streets here, but for instance, my car is stuck in the alley. It is going to be really a challenge to get anywhere. 

– Kirsti Marohn, MPR News reporter

The storm impacted childcare in some communities

Rochester is unique because it's such a huge medical community. When we have a snow day, after school and before school care will remain open during that day. But even that has been canceled in the last couple of days. If you're a nurse who's working in the ICU, you still have to go to work and you don't have much of a choice, but maybe you don't have anywhere to send your kids. 

What was unusual about this storm is that we saw a lot of additional closures we don't typically see like daycare centers. Also, we are operating on sort of a limited bus route schedule this morning. Some routes have been entirely closed for the day, and that is a little unusual. I think we feel those impacts a little bit more in terms of the workforce here.

– Catharine Richert, MPR News reporter

‘The Birkie race has never been canceled for too much snow’

I talked to the organizers of the Birkie yesterday and the concern is that they know that some people are probably not going to be able to make it to the race. People come from all over the country and all over the world. 20 people from 20 different countries come to the Birkie and some flights have been canceled. 

Luckily the big races are Friday and Saturday, so they're hoping that most folks driving in from the Twin Cities, Duluth and elsewhere, should be able to make it. It's funny that the race has been canceled in the past for not enough snow, it's never been canceled for too much snow. So organizers are pretty excited about all this snow in the good conditions that skiers should have.

– Dan Kraker, MPR News reporter

A snow plow drives on an already cleared road.
An Inver Grove Heights city snowplow traverses an already-cleared Blaine Avenue on its way to clear snow from other streets on Wednesday.
Andrew Krueger | MPR News

Your experiences with road conditions

Minnesotans called into the show and shared their experiences. Here are a few of them.

‘We need MnDOT more than we are used to’

I think MnDOT needs to be more up to par and instead of waiting until the snow is done falling, we should have trucks out to help people deal with this. We know that snow is coming and people are sliding or getting caught on the sides of the roads and stuff. I drove probably like three miles from home to work and it was terrible. And I just feel sorry for the people that have to really commute far. It was a slippery, deep snow type of drive. 

– Nate in Fridley

‘We’ve been plowing 30 hours or more straight’

I have been plowing for the better part of the last couple of days here. That's kind of the hard part of snowstorms like this, we ended up spending 30 hours or more straight trying to keep up with it. I'm on my third pass through Edina and Bloomington and there is another fresh layer of snow on the ground. I've got to go clean up again. I'm in a giant excavator and it has gotten stuck a few times tonight because of the wet heavy nature of it. When there's a lot of traffic on the road, it's not only dangerous, but it also complicates the effectiveness of our job.

– Kyle in Minneapolis

‘Thank you for staying home’

I’m a plow driver and I just want to share that it's really nice that there aren't a lot of people on the road. Having that less traffic out there makes it easier to do the work. It makes a world of difference because otherwise, people get stuck, they spin out and that makes our job a lot harder. So it's great for people to stay home.

– Anne in Oakdale