Dismal commute predicted as storm hits Midwest
Monday, February 21, 2011
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Hundreds of flights were canceled at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and officials in several states advised people to stay off the highways as a winter storm blew through the upper Midwest on Sunday.
Even before the worst of the storm hit, Delta Airlines canceled about 700 flights to and from the Twin Cities airport and other airlines thinned out their schedules, said airport spokeswoman Melissa Scovronski. She said Sunday afternoon the storm had shut down two of the airport’s four runways.
In Detroit, airlines canceled roughly 230 flights though the city’s Metro Wayne County airport, while more than 200 flights through Chicago’s O’Hare airport were off.
Traffic on the roads wasn’t much better. The National Weather Service reported blizzard conditions in western Minnesota and issued a winter storm warning for the rest of the southern half of the state.
It was part of a storm that stretched from Montana to Michigan and was moving east. The National Weather Service predicted it would bring a wintry mix across the upper Midwest for several days.
Weather service forecasters predicted the storm would drop 10 to 15 inches of snow on Minneapolis by Monday afternoon, which promised to make for a tough commute for those working on President’s Day.
“It’s going to be snowing in the morning,” said weather service meteorologist James McQuirter. “It’s going to be a messy commute.”
A spokesman for the Minnesota Department of Transportation recommended that people just stay home and watch television on Sunday afternoon, rather than risk driving through the wind-driven snow.
“If people don’t need to travel, they shouldn’t,” said spokesman Kevin Gutknect. “It’s really hard for people to see.”
The weather won’t be much better Monday morning, but at least a light holiday commute will make more room for snow plows, Gutknecht said. The blowing snow was expected to make clearing the roads difficult.
By early Sunday evening, the weather service was reporting 9 inches of snow had fallen in Bloomington and just over 8 inches in Burnsville, both suburbs south of Minneapolis. Southern Minneapolis reported 6 inches.
St. Paul and several cities in the southern half of the state declared snow emergencies, which typically triggers parking restrictions that make it easier to clear the streets. Minneapolis had not as of Sunday evening.
As the storm moved east, it also prompted travel warnings in Wisconsin. The Wisconsin Department of Transportation warned that roads could become impassible due to a mix of snow, freezing rain and ice.
In Michigan, state police cautioned that mix of snow and freezing rain was expected through midday Monday in the southwestern part of the state. On Sunday, WOOD-TV reported that southbound U.S. 131 was closed for a time after dozens of vehicles crashed in Mecosta County near Big Rapids.