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Massive storm cancels schools, closes roads, knocks out power

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Minnesotans woke up to a heavy, wind-whipped blanket of snow left behind by a powerful winter storm that forecasters were calling the biggest of the season (photos below).

The storm dumped at least 10-12 inches across the metro, made driving dangerous and knocked out power. More than 400 schools and districts canceled classes, including Minneapolis and St. Paul schools.

FOX 9 reported a few snow totals:

MSP Airport: 9.9 in.
Prior Lake: 9.5 in.
Chanhassen: 9.1 in.
Maplewood: 9.0 in.
St. Cloud: 8.2 in.
Blaine: 8.0 in.
Hastings: 6.9 in.
Watertown: 5.8 in.

Nearly 28,000 metro-area Xcel Energy customers and 400 Dakota Electric customers had no power for several hours overnight, and the companies are preparing for more outages with extra crews on standby as high winds continue to buffet the region, the Star Tribune reported. As of about 7 a.m., 16,700 customers were still without power, including about 6,300 in the east Twin Cities metro, 3,100 in the west metro and about 7,200 customers in Wisconsin, WCCO reports.

Here's Xcel's outage map.

The snow is likely the culprit of a power outage in Rochester that occurred when a transformer exploded in the city.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation reported early Friday morning that Twin Cities highways were hazardous and advised no travel. Snow-covered roads and blustery conditions made for low visibility for drivers. MnDOT's traffic Twitter feed reported hazardous driving conditions on many area roadways.

The Minnesota State Patrol closed southbound I-35 from Owatonna to the Iowa border shortly after 1 a.m. Friday. A “no travel” advisory remained in effect early Friday in southeastern Minnesota.

From motorist Justin Thompson-Gee, stuck on Interstate 90 between Brownsdale and Stewartville in southeast Minnesota Friday morning:

Heavy snow and strong winds Thursday night closed most of the roads and highways in south-central Minnesota, according to Minnesota Department of Transportation's website. The Star Tribune reported white-out conditions in the southwest and south-central part of the state forced MnDOT officials to pull plows off some roads Thursday night.

From KAAL TV's Ellery McCardle, a viewer image near Lyle, Minnesota:

Snow began falling throughout the metro area and much of southern Minnesota Thursday afternoon.

Star Tribune chief meteorologist Paul Douglas said, "I suspect this will be the biggest snowfall of the winter to date. Plan on significant delays and cancellations Friday morning, with travel slowly improving during the day."

The National Weather Service extended a blizzard warning to include much of south-central and southwestern Minnesota, while a winter storm warning remains in effect for eastern Minnesota and the metro area. The weather service says much of southern and eastern Minnesota can expect between 8 and 12 inches of snow by the time the storm moves out on Friday.

A long list of metro-area cities issued snow emergencies, KSTP reported.

The Minnesota State Patrol responded to 174 crashes statewide as the storm raged between 2 and 7:30 p.m. Thursday, one of them fatal. According to the state patrol, the two-vehicle crash happened in Wabasha County along Highway 42.

KSTP says 15 of the crashes involved injuries, two of them resulted in serious injuries. A total of 393 vehicles either spun out or went off the road, according to one Thursday night count.

Before Thursday’s storm, the metro area had more than 47 inches of snow this season – 8 inches more than normal, according to the Star Tribune. This has caused cities to re-evaluate and ration their snow budgets.

Minneapolis Public Works is rationing its salt usage, according to KSTP. Mike Kennedy, who works with Minneapolis Public Works, told KSTP the city is using its resources at a much higher rate than normal and must distribute them accordingly to make it through the rest of winter – the same goes for many other cities.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker declared a state of emergency in advance of the storm. Rochester Fire Department Deputy Fire Chief Steve Belau told the Rochester Post Bulletin, "We hope that people will be mindful of the National Weather Service warnings and not venture out [during the storm]."

So. What's next, winter? Not much snow for the metro, but dropping temperatures through early next week:

A few images from the storm:

Going somewhere? Some Minnesotans found themselves drifted in (photo: James Anderson in Owatonna).

A viewer-submitted photo to KAAL TV's (Rochester) Facebook page, a stuck snowplow:

Post by KAAL - ABC 6 News.

Calvin in Farmington (thanks for the photo Laura Ramthun):

This Minneapolis sign seemed to offer up a message to winter (thanks for the photo Julie MacKay):

A light in the storm in Plymouth (thanks for the photo Jill Kaster Yeager):

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