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State Patrol: 660+ Crashes As Season's 1st Significant Storm Hits Minnesota

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Winter is here and it's causing trouble on the roads.

It's very slick out there on highways and Twin Cities roads, which is creating hazardous conditions for many people's commutes. The snow began falling Monday night and temperatures dropped, creating icy conditions.

This sent many drivers into the ditch. From 8 a.m. Monday to 4 p.m. Tuesday, there were 665 crashes statewide. One person was killed. Another 600 vehicles spun out or ran off the road.

From Roseville to Blaine and beyond, December is finally looking familiar.

Frustrating to some, fulfilling to others.

"I'm really excited to go snowboarding so I'm kind of stoked for it," Marli Komerek said.

Marli Komerek and her dad, Daniel, commuted into Minneapolis from Minnetonka by bus. By 8:30 a.m., Metro Transit says 71 percent of their buses were delayed by 22 minutes. It was a slow ride for the Komerek's, too.

Gallery: December 4 Winter Storm

"All I know is I could hear the crunch under the wheels as the bus came down moving only about 20 miles per hour. It was quite slow, kind of icy, people are driving slow, most people are - a few semis haven't but there in a ditch now," Daniel Komerek said.

And he's exactly right. Traffic management cameras captured the morning mayhem.  The accidents started over night - one of them fatal - and they kept happening into the morning. Many commutes doubled or tripled.

It was even a tough trek for those who commute on foot. But amidst the shivering shuffle, there was patience.

Many parts of the state, including the Twin Cities, saw around two to three inches accumulate. Other areas saw a few inches more while a string of communities in northern Minnesota woke up to nearly a foot of fresh snow.

With the evening sun shining bright, the pavement along Interstate 94 was black as night, free from the snow, ice, and traffic that made it such a scary sight Tuesday morning.

"I'm old and retired and I'm smart enough not to get anywhere near the rush hour traffic," said driver Joe Quinn.

Not everyone can simply avoid driving in the Twin Cities, and those who couldn't likely experienced a slippery bumper-bumper commute along several interstates.

"I've heard some stories of some pretty long commutes, we apologize for the inconvenience," said Kevin Gutknecht, communications director for the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

MnDOT wasn't necessarily taking the blame, however Gutknecht did have explanations for many complaints such as the roads not being pre-treated.

"MnDOT does not go out and pretreat the roads when it's raining because it just washes the pretreat, which is salt, washes it off the road," he said.

Temperatures soared into the 50s midday Tuesday. It then rained throughout the evening, and as the temperature dropped below freezing the precipitation transitioned to sleet, then snow, compacting into an icy shield on the highways.

Gutknecht said MnDOT had 200 vehicles working to clear the roads but then the morning rush hour started.

"And when we're talking about gridlocked roads, bumper to bumper traffic, a plow's not going to move any faster than the traffic moves," he said.

A sinkhole along I-694 in Oakdale didn't help either, forcing drivers to reroute and clog other highways.

But no matter what Mother Nature dishes out, MnDOT is reminding people to drive with a winter mindset. That means slow down, leave early and expect delays.

Quinn has some advice of his own. "Don't over drive your vehicle, particularly you four-wheel drive fools," he said from the seat of his four-wheel drive pickup truck.

Looking ahead, the wintry weather isn't going anywhere.

The rest of the workweek looks to have below-average temperatures, with highs in the 20s. Over the weekend, however, the mercury looks to rise closer to average, with highs in the low 30s.

The good news: There's no other significant snowstorm in the immediate future.

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