The nearly 9 inches of snow that fell across the Twin Cities on Wednesday shattered the snowfall record for February.
And more — possibly a lot more — is on the way, with another week to go.
The 8.9 inches that fell at the Twin Cities airport pushed the monthly total to 31.5 inches, well above the previous record of 26.5 inches in 1962.
“We’ve had so many [weather] systems that we’re kinda running out of places to put this snow,” said Tyler Hasenstein, meteorologist with the National Weather Service (NWS) in Chanhassen.
Although Wednesday’s heavy snowfall piled up quickly and grew to the season’s deepest, it won’t come close to breaking the official snowfall record for this date of 11.8 inches in 2011. Still, it was enough to frustrate motorists, delay public transit, briefly stall airport traffic and prompt school closures and snow emergencies.
Many opted to avoid the commute altogether and work from home. But some hardier Minnesotans faced the day head-on by skiing into the office.
At the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, two runways were idled briefly early Wednesday as plows strained to clear them of snow, which was falling up to an inch per hour at the time.
More than 100 pieces of snow removal equipment were used on the airfield, which alternated between two different runways so they could be regularly maintained, said MSP spokesman John Welbes.
Nine commercial flights that were scheduled to arrive at MSP were instead diverted to Duluth International Airport, where snowfall was not as heavy as in the Twin Cities.
The cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis declared snow emergencies late Wednesday morning, meaning vehicle owners need to get off the designated streets to make way for snowplows. Similar edicts were issued in several suburbs.
Snowfall totals varied widely. Belle Plaine led the way with 12.8 inches, followed by Eden Prairie and Bloomington with 10 each, Waconia 9.5 and Prior Lake with 9 inches.
Outside the metro area, 11-inch tallies were reported in Westbrook and Russell, in southwestern Minnesota, and Webster, about 12 miles northwest of Northfield. Among the larger cities statewide, New Ulm received 10 inches, Marshall 9.8, and Owatonna, Worthington and Mankato each had 9.
The snow caused havoc on the highways. A vehicle hit a snowplow around 2 p.m. on eastbound Interstate 94 west of Melrose in central Minnesota, stopping traffic on that side of the freeway until late into the afternoon, according to the Minnesota Department of Transportation.
The morning commute was slow as the snowfall became increasingly intense. Spinouts were common, but no major crashes were reported.
As a light-rail train arrived midafternoon heading west toward Target Field, the conductor announced that it wouldn’t make it to the end of the line because of the abundant snow. “That’s just the way it is today,” he said.
Not everyone was able to work from home. Operators of the Mall of America flexed their Bold North muscles and insisted that all stores resist closing or even trimming their hours Wednesday.
“All Mall tenants are expected to open on time and remain open for the entire business day throughout the week,” read the letter to tenants.
The biggest of the state’s school districts — Anoka-Hennepin, St. Paul and Minneapolis — announced Tuesday night that Wednesday’s classes were canceled, and many other districts joined in.
If you’re sick of the snow, weather experts recommend savoring Thursday’s short reprieve.
Snowfall is expected to stop for just 24 hours before moving back in Friday night and continuing into the weekend — though, it won’t accumulate nearly as much as Wednesday’s deluge.
“It looks like a pretty potent storm,” said Hasenstein, the meteorologist. “So be wary of that.”
Star Tribune staff writers Mary Lynn Smith, Tim Harlow and Liz Sawyer contributed to this report.
How much fell, breaking the February snowfall record.
The new record for the month, which breaks the 1962 total of 26.5.
Snow likely Friday, with more snow and freezing rain over the weekend.