Snow ending; flood worries continueby Dan Olson, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — The late winter snowstorm that swept through Minnesota is nearly over, and temperatures are going to stay at or below freezing for the next few days. Hydrologists say below freezing temps mean the expected record or near-record flood levels will be delayed.
But the snow that fell across much of central and southern Minnesota has a high moisture content, and adds a lot of water exactly when we don't need it.
Snow amounts across a good share of central and southern Minnesota ranged from a few inches to nearly a foot.
"This added insult to injury, to say the least," said Dan Luna, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in the Twin Cities.
The insult, Luna said, is the timing. The snow has come just as the spring melt is underway, in a flood season that could approach record levels on some streams and rivers.
Luna says nighttime lows in the teens, and daytime highs in the low to mid-30s, will slow the melt and perhaps tamp down flood forecasts.
"It will immediately cut off the amount of water flowing in small creeks, streams and drainage ditches," he said. "We'll freeze that to ice now. So that will stop some of the rises in the Minnesota and Mississippi rivers."
Luna says the bad news is the rainfall equivalent of the snow that fell across our region adds a lot of water to what is already waiting to enter the streams and rivers.
In west central Minnesota, some locations received less than half an inch of water content from the snowstorm. In central parts of the state and the metro area, the water content was close to 1.5 inches. And it was close to 2 inches in places in the extreme southern part of Minnesota.
"It's a tremendous amount of water or precipitation for this time of the year," said Luna.
For many the snow was just an unwelcome addition to an already long winter, as the snow slowed drivers on streets and highways around the region.
Minnesota state troopers responded to 277 crashes and 408 vehicles off the road -- most of them in the Twin Cities. There were 41 injuries reported so far, and no deaths.
Metropolitan Transit spokesman John Siqveland says at 8 a.m., there were 500 buses on 112 transit routes in the metro area.
"Two-thirds of those were on time, and for those that weren't the average delay was about six minutes," he said.
Siqveland says commuter and light rail service ran without a hitch, and that's what he was expecting for the evening rush hour.
"Extra buses have been added and are on standby to fill in, should trips become significantly delayed," he said.
The storm caused up to two-hour delays for Twin Cities airport travelers as well as some flight cancellations.
The Federal Aviation Administration placed the airport on ground delay status because of wind gusts.
"What we have is a crosswind, so when the aircraft are arriving here on one of our parallel runways the wind is coming at them perpendicular," said airport spokeswoman Melissa Scovronski. "There are some aircraft that are not able to land in those kinds of conditions."
Airlines canceled dozens of flights as of Wednesday afternoon.
Conditions are expected to improve into the evening, as the storm moves away.
Minnesota Department of Transportation spokesman Kent Barnard says roads should become easier to drive.
"This time of year when we head into spring we have warmer pavement temperatures, warmer ground temperatures, and warmer air temperatures that really help get the salt working," said Barnard. "So we get things melted, and the snow doesn't stick and stay around, and that's very much a positive for us."
National Weather Service meteorologist Dan Luna says the answer to what happens next is unknown.
The cold weather will likely reduce or delay some of the near record flood forecasts -- assuming we don't get any more precipitation.
On the other hand, Luna said he remembers an April a decade ago when it snowed every weekend.
- All Things Considered, 03/23/2011, 5:16 p.m.