March storm dumps several inches of snow on parts of Upper Midwest, causes hazardous travel



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MINNEAPOLIS — Residents across the Upper Midwest got some of the winter they had so far missed on Tuesday, as a fast-moving storm dumped several inches of snow and made travel treacherous in some areas.

The storm dropped up to 6.5 inches of snow in western Minnesota, while far eastern South Dakota got 3 inches. But blizzard warnings for Minnesota and South Dakota were lifted.

Meteorologist Jim Taggart with the National Weather Service in Chanhassen, Minnesota, said the state has seen about half its usual snowfall this season. But the quick-hitting storm could be winter's last blast for the region, said Minnesota Public Radio meteorologist Paul Huttner. Forecasts call for high temperatures above freezing this weekend and into next week.


TOUGH TRAVELING

Snow turned the morning commute in the Twin Cities into a slippery mess. The State Patrol reported 250 crashes and nearly 30 vehicles that slid off roads or spun out by midafternoon. A state trooper's squad car was struck and badly damaged on I-494 near Concord in South St. Paul, Minnesota, while that trooper was investigating a crash.

Authorities closed a slippery stretch of Interstate 94 in central Minnesota for a time due to numerous accidents. The most serious involved a semi that hit a car whose driver had pulled over to change a tire, said State Patrol spokeswoman Lt. Tiffani Nielson. One person in the car was hurt.

One person died in a crash on Highway 41 in Brown County of northeastern Wisconsin. At least four school buses got stuck in traffic behind the crash scene.

The storm forced officials to temporarily close the Apostle Islands ice caves to tourists. Around 12,000 people have visited the ice caves along the south shore of Lake Superior since they opened over the weekend. But the National Park Service said high winds and blowing snow could make the ice leading to the caves unsafe.


PRAIRIE PROBLEMS

Many schools from the eastern Dakotas to western Minnesota delayed classes or closed for the day. South Dakota's Transportation Secretary Darin Bergquist warned it would be "a dangerous spring storm."

"Just another day in South Dakota," said Jessica Martin, who works at the Crossroads Truck Stop in the eastern South Dakota town of Colman. "We're way ready for spring."

Heavy snow and gusty winds also struck much of Wyoming, causing road closures and prompting transport officials to warn against all but essential travel across much of the state. Three people were killed in a three-vehicle crash north of Casper, Wyoming, on Monday night as the storm blew into the state, the Casper Star-Tribune reported.

Icy roads were making travel treacherous in Iowa and Nebraska, leading to at least one fatal traffic accident in Omaha. Rain and freezing rain remained in the forecast for both states.


BOSTON TRANSIT

The Boston-area transit system is considering ways to compensate customers for weeks of weather-related delays and breakdowns as the area has received 8½ feet of snow.

A Massachusetts Bay Transportation official said Tuesday the options include a week of free fares, which he estimated would cost the agency $6 million. Other possibilities include rebates or discounts for monthly pass holders, or letting customers with monthly passes use them for another month.

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation board will vote next week on whether to approve any of the plans.

Officials estimated the cost to the transit system of the winter storm cleanup is $36.5 million to date.


WASHINGTON WOES

The mid-Atlantic region braced for another shot of snow, sleet and freezing rain in time for the evening rush hour. A winter weather advisory was effect in the Baltimore and Washington areas.

The federal government in the Washington region was open, but workers were given the option of taking unscheduled leave or teleworking. Several school systems canceled evening events and a few closed early.


ST. PATRICK'S PLEA IN BOSTON

Organizers of Boston's annual St. Patrick's Day Parade say the event will go on as planned March 15, despite the 8½ feet of snow that has fallen on the city this winter — but they are asking for help in clearing the route.

Brian Mahoney, commander of the South Boston Allied War Veterans Council, is asking unions, businesses and residents to help shovel snow. He said it would be impossible to postpone the parade.

The city is just short of surpassing its 20-year-old snowfall record. Sunday's snowfall brought the city's total to 103.9 inches. It needs 3.7 inches more to break the 1995-1996 record of 107.6. Snow forecast for Tuesday and Wednesday could tip that total over the edge, according to Frank Nocera, a NWS meteorologist in Taunton, Massachusetts.

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