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Upper Midwest faces dismal commute with storm

By CHRIS WILLIAMS

Associated Press

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 04:46 a.m. HST, Feb 21, 2011


MINNEAPOLIS — A winter storm that blew through the upper Midwest over the Presidents Day long weekend coated roads with ice and snow and led airlines to cancel hundreds of flights.

Residents of Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin who didn't get the Monday holiday off faced what was expected to be a dismal commute. Officials were urging people to stay off the roads if possible, rather than risk driving on icy roads or through wind-driven snow.

Early Monday, the National Weather Service said up to 10 inches of snow had fallen on parts of southern Michigan since the storm began Sunday afternoon. A winter storm warning remained in effect in southwest Michigan, with forecasters predicting up to 3 inches more of snow and warning that high winds could cause blowing snow and drifts.

In Madison, Wis., where tens of thousands of protesters have rallied outside the Capitol for nearly a week to protest Gov. Scott Walker's proposal to cut public employees' collective bargaining rights, snow, rain and sleet kept many away on Sunday, although protesters continued to cram into the rotunda.

The weather service said Sunday's storm blanketed much of central Wisconsin with 10 to 12 inches of snow. A further 2 inches of snow with some freezing drizzle was expected in Madison on Monday.

Hundreds of flights were canceled at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and at Detroit Metropolitan Airport as the storm started moving through Sunday.

The National Weather Service said up to 13 inches had fallen in the Twin Cities by Sunday night, and light snow and freezing drizzle was expected to continue into Monday morning. The storm brought with it winds of 15 to 30 mph. More than a foot of snow as well as freezing rain fell on parts of the Dakotas, but forecasters had lifted all warnings and advisories by Monday morning.

Minnesota Department of Transportation spokesman Kevin Gutknect noted that at least Monday's light holiday traffic would make more room for snow plows. Blowing snow was expected to make clearing the roads difficult.

"If people don't need to travel, they shouldn't," Gutknect said. "It's really hard for people to see."

The University of Minnesota closed its Twin Cities campus until noon Monday, and the Minnesota Historical Society postponed its History Matters Day at the state Capitol in St. Paul.

Several cities in the southern half of the state, including St. Paul, declared snow emergencies, which typically trigger parking restrictions that make it easier to clear the streets. Minneapolis public works officials said they would wait until the snowfall ended before decided whether to declare a snow emergency.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation said driving conditions were hazardous as the storm brought a mix of ice, snow and high winds to the southern part of the state and heavier snow further north. The agency said numerous slide-offs and crashes had been reported on interstates by Sunday night. The National Weather Service said snow accumulations could reach more than a foot in central Wisconsin.

In Michigan, state police cautioned that mix of snow and freezing rain was expected through midday Monday in the southwestern part of the state. Up to a foot of snow was forecast in some areas. Mecosta County Sheriff's Sgt. J. Koepke said southbound U.S. 131 was closed for several hours Sunday after 50 to 60 vehicles crashed near Big Rapids.






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