A powerful snowstorm socked the upper Midwest on Shabbos with as much as 20 inches of snow, forcing authorities to close state roads across five states as heavy winds made for treacherous driving conditions.
The storm started Friday in the Rocky Mountains and swept overnight into northern Nebraska and Iowa. By Saturday morning, the blizzard hit eastern South Dakota, northwest Iowa and southwest Minnesota.
Eastern Minnesota’s Oakdale area got 20 inches of snow as of Saturday afternoon, according to the National Weather Service. The storm was moving eastward, where it dumped about a foot of snow in Chippewa County in northwestern Wisconsin and was expected to drop 20 to 24 inches by Sunday morning in the Eau Claire area.
Lisa McGrath was shoveling her front walk in southeast Minneapolis, but knew she’d likely have to do it again in a few hours.
“It’s good exercise-the only exercise I’m going to get today,” McGrath said as she hoisted the shovel.
The State Patrol said there were 76 crashes reported statewide, but none with fatalities or serious injuries, and 319 reports of vehicles sliding off roads.
“The areas that were hardest hit are virtually impassable,” said Minnesota State Patrol Lt. Eric Roeske. “So we don’t expect those numbers to go up a whole lot.”
With the snow and winds combining to make visibility difficult for drivers, Minnesota transportation officials closed westbound Interstate 90 from Albert Lea to the South Dakota border, pulled plows off roads in the southern part of the state and told drivers to stay home.
The Twin Cities east metro area received 15 to 20 inches of snow by Saturday afternoon and was expected to see another 1 to 3 inches before the storm tapered off there.
Heavy snow was falling in northern Iowa, where up to 10 inches was expected, and eastern South Dakota, where 5 to 8 inches was forecast. Portions of Interstates 29 and 76 were closed in Iowa and South Dakota because of blowing snow and related crashes.
Wisconsin authorities issued a statewide no-travel advisory, citing blizzard and winter storm warnings in nearly every county.
The weather was an unexpected burden for one Minnesota man who had pledged to camp out on the roof of a coffee shop to help his daughter’s school raise money. Hospital executive Robert Stevens donned four layers of long underwear, heavy boots and a down coat before embarking on his quest Friday night.
He vowed not to come down until he had raised $100,000, but after reaching the halfway mark Shabbos morning, he said he hoped the rest of the money would come fast. He didn’t look forward to spending another night out in the blizzard.
“I think I’ve crossed the line into insanity,” he said.
Stevens slept inside a tent surrounded by hay bales, swaddled in a double-insulated sleeping bag as he listened to the winds whip off Lake Minnetonka a block away.
The snowstorm was expected to be followed by dangerous cold. A wind chill advisory covered most of North Dakota on Saturday morning. North winds of 15 miles per hour or more combined with air temperatures at or below zero to drop wind chill readings to 20 below zero, the weather service said.
The arctic air was expected to spread east behind the storm, dropping temperatures below zero throughout the Dakotas and in parts of Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin by Sunday night.
There was a bustling lunch crowd Saturday in the Birchwood Cafe in Minneapolis, which stayed open for business. Collette Dennis, a baker there, was back inside after she and co-workers spent 20 futile minutes trying to free her parked car from a snowdrift. Dennis still hoped to figure out a way to get home to the suburb of Roseville, about 12 miles away-but she also was prepared to stay put.
The cafe had no cots, Dennis said, “but we have multiple bags of flour I could sleep on. And I guess at least I won’t go hungry.”