A one-two punch of winter weatherby Paul Huttner, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — (AP) - An arctic front pushed into Minnesota on Monday, packing a one-two punch of blizzard conditions followed by bitter cold.
More than 50 schools or school districts in southern and western Minnesota canceled classes altogether Monday, while more than 60 sent students home early or canceled after-school activities.
The National Weather Service forecast 3 inches to 6 inches of snow for a large part of southern and west-central Minnesota by Monday evening. But the winds and cold were a bigger concern.
Gusts from the north of 30 mph to 40 mph were whipping up the fresh powdery snow, causing near-blizzard conditions and complicating travel in open areas of southwestern and south-central Minnesota.
A blizzard warning is in effect for southwestern Minnesota until tonight at 9 p.m. Winter storm warnings and advisories are posted for the remainder of southern and central Minnesota until midnight. The Twin Cities is under a winter weather advisory.
Wind chill indexes of 25 below to 35 below zero were expected from Monday evening through Tuesday morning for much of central and southern Minnesota, extending into western Wisconsin.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation reported difficult driving conditions across southern and western Minnesota by Monday afternoon due to poor visibility and slippery roads. Minor accidents were common.
"It's like a sea of whiteness; people can't see the road," said Rebecca Arndt, a spokeswoman for the Minnesota Department of Transportation in Mankato. "When the white fluffy stuff starts to blow, it is not pretty."
In Kandiyohi County in west-central Minnesota, searchers found a woman who went missing as the snowstorm moved in.
The 44-year-old Raymond woman was found by a volunteer firefighter on a snowmobile, alive and conscious but suffering from hypothermia.
Rescuers used a rescue sled attached to a snowmobile to take her to a waiting ambulance, which took her to Rice Memorial Hospital in Willmar. Her name and condition were not immediately available.
Neighbors said the woman normally went for a daily walk. After she was reported missing, residents and authorities organized a search, which ended about two hours later when she was found in a wetland area around 12:30 p.m.
In the Twin Cities metro area, up to 3 inches to 5 inches of snow was forecast in time for the evening rush hour. Temperatures were expected to plunge into the teens below zero Monday night, with wind chills as low as 29 below.
Some arrivals at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport were delayed by close to an hour Monday afternoon, the Federal Aviation Administration said.
The bitter cold is expected to last much of the week. An arctic front will move through this evening, bringing strong northwest winds that will kick up the snow and cause blowing and drifting in open areas.
This "Siberian Express" arctic outbreak will bring in the season's coldest air. It may be the coldest week of the year, and we may see our coldest day of the year on Thursday. This air mass has a history of reading between -40 and -60, tracking it all the way back through Alaska and Siberia.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report)