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Winter's back: Fresh snow may mean messy morning commute

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Yes, Ol' Man Winter took a few days off.

But traditional mid-December weather is back in Minnesota – bringing with it those cautionary phrases "extra time" and "slow down."

A storm that started with rain turned to sleet and then snow overnight, making roads especially messy in the western part of the state but slippery throughout Minnesota.

This caused some schools to delay start times Tuesday, especially in the west-central part of the state, according to KARE 11.

KSTP's Dave Dahl says snowfall totals could amount to six inches in an area from Pipestone north to Redwood Falls, while the Twin Cities might have an inch or two on the ground for the morning commute.

Dahl says that inch or two could make for a white Christmas, though, because temperatures are not likely to climb above freezing again before the 25th.

The forecast from the National Weather Service shows highs right around the normal mark for this time of year.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation's road conditions map showed most of the highways throughout the state were at least partially covered with snow and ice Tuesday morning (below).

Similar conditions were reported Monday and by late afternoon the State Patrol had reported more than 20 crashes in west central Minnesota with three jackknifed semis.

As conditions deteriorated in the far southwest there were power outages. In the early evening, Xcel Energy's outage map showed 1,300 customers without power in towns including Tyler, Ruthton, and Pipestone. By 11 p.m. that had been reduced to fewer than 800 customers in the dark.

WCCO reports that Monday's rain prevented MnDOT from pre-treating Twin Cities streets in advance of the oncoming ice and snow. An agency spokesman says the rains would have washed the treatments down the storm drains, but added that crews would be applying salt to roads overnight and the conditions forecast on Tuesday morning would be ideal for it to take effect.

MPR meteorologist Paul Huttner notes the three-day stretch of balmy temperatures included 50-degree readings in the Twin Cities each day. Monday's 51 degrees broke a record that had stood since 1923. The U of M's Mark Seeley points out the record was reached at 4:45 a.m. Seeley believes it's the first time Twin Cities climatological data show a record high temperature set between 4 and 5 in the morning.

The respite from winter weather was enjoyed by some golfers who were able to sneak in a last round of the year, but KSTP reports it also put skating season on hold at many outdoor rinks.

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