Snow Slows Traffic In The Upper Midwest

Wednesday, December 5th 2007, 7:27 am

By: News On 6

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) _ A snowstorm that peaked in time for the evening commute slowed traffic to an agonizing crawl across the Twin Cities on Tuesday.

``It's pretty much a standstill everywhere right now,'' Todd Fairbanks, a regional traffic management spokesman, said shortly after 5 p.m.

The drive home was double and often triple the normal time as the Twin Cities and other parts of Minnesota saw their second major snowfall of the season.

``We haven't had a snow storm of this significance this year during rush hour,'' Minnesota Department of Transportation spokesman Kevin Walker said.

The National Weather Service said snowfall totals varied from 5 to 8 inches north the Interstate 94 corridor down to 2 inches or less south of the Minnesota River valley. Totals averaged from 2 to 5 inches in the Twin Cities area. Part of Duluth picked up over 16 inches of lake-effect snow.

The new snow fell on top of the 4 to 10 inches or more that fell across much of Minnesota on Saturday, when far fewer people had to be on the road.

Metro area sheriff's dispatchers and the State Patrol reported more than 200 spinouts, collisions and vehicles in the ditches by 7 p.m. but there were no reports of serious injuries, possibly because traffic was barely creeping along much of the time.

``My 20-minute commute took two hours,'' said Carolyn Marinan, a spokeswoman for Hennepin County. ``The overwhelming majority of time was spent trying to leave downtown.''

MnDOT put about 200 plows on the road Tuesday, said Kent Barnard, another agency spokesman. Operators tend to take breaks during rush hour because the plows don't do much good when they're bogged down in standstill traffic, he said.

Barnard spoke has his car crept along Interstate 694 in the northern suburbs on his way to work a shift as a plow driver Tuesday evening.

``Every once in a while I get up to 10 miles per hour,'' he said.

Many school districts canceled games and other after-school and evening activities, and some communities declared snow emergencies.

The snow was even heavier in Duluth, where an east wind off Lake Superior had dumped more than 16 inches of new snow on the low areas at the lake's western tip. The Duluth Transit Authority pulled its buses off the streets in the evening, and National Weather Service meteorologist Kevin Donofrio said West Duluth could get 18 inches by Wednesday morning.

Spinouts brought traffic to a standstill on both the Blatnik and Bong bridges connecting Duluth with Superior, Wis. MnDOT spokesman John Bray said both bridges are so narrow that one stopped car effectively stops all others.

``You'll have one fender-bender, then two, then all the dominoes fall,'' Bray said.

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