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Posted at 12:10 PM ET, 12/12/2010

Metrodome roof fails after Minneapolis blizzard

By Jason Samenow

Powerful storm charging toward East Coast

minn-blizzard.jpg
Pedestrians make their way to a Minnesota college basketball game against Eastern Kentucky on the University of Minnesota campus during a snowstorm in Minneapolis, Saturday, Dec. 11, 2010. (AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt) (Ann Heisenfelt - AP) .

Nearly a foot and a half of snow fell in Minneapolis Saturday, causing the roof of the Metrodome to collapse. The blizzard's crippling snow and wind made for difficult to impossible travel in much of southern Minnesota, western Wisconsin and parts of the Dakotas.

Today the same storm is producing blizzard-like conditions in Chicago where a winter storm warning is in effect and wind gusts have exceeded 50 mph. Extreme snow and wind is also impacting eastern Iowa, eastern Wisconsin and northern Michigan.

Along the East Coast, with the exception of interior New England where snow and ice is falling, the storm is producing mostly rain. However, as the intense cold front responsible for the snow and wind in the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes pushes eastward, a "flash freeze" will change the rain to snow showers and flurries tonight into tomorrow.

Frigid temperatures and strong winds will grip the East Coast for the first half of the upcoming week.

The 17.1" of snow that fell in Minneapolis was its biggest snowfall since 1991 and 5th biggest snow on record for the Twin Cities.

Meteorologist Paul Douglas at the Minneapolis Star Tribune also notes the following in his storm recap:

* Reports of 3-6 foot drifts around the metro, the most snow on the ground in 19 years.
* That snow isn't going anywhere anytime soon - no thaws in sight through Christmas Day. There will be some "settling" as the sheer weight of the snow compacts the accumulation - some "shrinkage" in the coming days, but for snow lovers this is truly as good as it's ever 'gonna get!
* Wind chills dip to -30 today in spite of bright sunshine. Winds gusting to 25 mph. will produce more drifting, especially outside the metro (where travel conditions should slowly improve as the day goes on and plows get back on the highways).
* -15 tonight, as cold as -21 late Monday night/Tuesday morning. The core of the Arctic air drifts over Minnesota during the day Monday, probably the coldest day of the next 3. By midweek temperatures start to moderate (a bit). Low 20s will actually feel remarkably good by Thursday.

The Post's Cindy Boren reports the Giants-Vikings game - which had been slated for this afternoon - was postponed due to Saturday's snow. The game has been moved to Detroit on Monday night in light of the Metrodome's collapse.

By Jason Samenow  | December 12, 2010; 12:10 PM ET
Categories:  Latest, U.S. Weather  
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Next: Incredible video: Metrodome roof collapses

Comments

I just relocated to Rochester, MN in June(70 miles SE Minneapolis/St. Paul) from Arlington and this storm brings back memories from last year. I was surprised that the ~16 inches we received in Rochester made this the second largest snowfall on record. I guess the extreme cold prevents some of the larger storms we get on the East coast.

The blowing and drifting last night was pretty extreme. I had clear sidewalks before bed and woke up to drifts that completely covered the paths. Most roads that were plowed looked completely untouched by morning. The sun is out this morning, but we have 0 degree temps with 25 mph winds for some extreme wind chills.

Posted by: I2uss | December 12, 2010 12:29 PM | Report abuse

"Along the East Coast, with the exception of interior New England where snow and ice is falling, the storm is producing mostly rain"

What about Western Maryland? Are we still East Coast since our state has a coastline?

It's been snowing since 11:30am and the NWS is calling for about 6-14 inches along the Allegheny Front.

Posted by: Russolini | December 12, 2010 12:46 PM | Report abuse

@Russolini

Good point. I did gloss over western Pa, West Va, and western Md. which is seeing rain change to snow during the day today. Thanks for the report from the highlands...

Posted by: Jason-CapitalWeatherGang | December 12, 2010 1:04 PM | Report abuse

I happen to be in Minneapolis this weekend. I never want to hear anyone criticize DC for not being able to handle snow. These people have completely freaked out. The neighbors are all up in arms over the amazing amount of snow...all of 17".

Airport? Closed
Busses? Cancelled
Public events? Cancelled
Snowplows? Pulled off the roads during the height of the storm
Our street? Unplowed ( although they did plow the alley already?
lots of cars, SUVs, and trucks stuck in the snow and abandoned.

They had already postponed the Vikings game, even before the Metrodome collapsed...

That was yesterday. They get lots of credit...today, the airport and busses are back running and the plows are doing their work and people are shoveling their walks despite the -20 wind chill. But let's not pretend that they handled this any better than Washingtonians

Posted by: stantonpark | December 12, 2010 1:09 PM | Report abuse

Unless the W winds kick in sooner rather than later, I'm thinking we'll be at the high end of the rain forecast, judging by the size of the SE system coming at us now.

Posted by: tinkerbelle | December 12, 2010 1:17 PM | Report abuse

What is the morning commute going to be like tomorrow? Awful or nothing to fret over?

Posted by: PoorTeacher | December 12, 2010 1:20 PM | Report abuse

I'm glad that flash freeze didn't happen last night like I was afraid it was going to!

Posted by: SusanMarie2 | December 12, 2010 1:41 PM | Report abuse

@I2uss:

Although the colder MN air does mean a smaller water holding capacity of the atmosphere, a bigger reason is the DC area's proximity to the infinite source of moisture to the east. Not many water sources near MN.

Posted by: TeamMIG | December 12, 2010 1:57 PM | Report abuse

@TeamMIG:

Thanks for the info and it makes sense. I'm still very new to MN winter.

Posted by: I2uss | December 12, 2010 2:10 PM | Report abuse

17"?? That is bush league compared to what we got last year. I thought that area were pros when it came to snow?

Posted by: j0nx | December 12, 2010 2:13 PM | Report abuse

@PoorTeacher

Not expecting widespread difficult conditions tomorrow morning... but could be a few slick spots with falling temps and about a 40% possibility of snow showers. I'm going to post an update around 5 or 6 pm keying on the conditions overnight tonight into tomorrow.

Posted by: Jason-CapitalWeatherGang | December 12, 2010 2:24 PM | Report abuse

@Stanton Park. I grew up in DC and have lived in Minneapolis for years. I totally agree with what you wrote! The natives are rather smug in thinking they're so good at snow removal but the truth is that most of their snows are not so big and they're often very powdery.

Posted by: eddiedog2 | December 12, 2010 2:32 PM | Report abuse

The snow here in Minneapolis was powdery. The 17 inches was the result of just 1.1 inches of liquid. Rather than blow the snow off the roof of the dome, they tried to melt it with hot water... which of course froze and added tons of weight. I believe the collapse occurred because of poor man-made decisions and not mother nature.

Posted by: eddiedog2 | December 12, 2010 2:37 PM | Report abuse

From the Twin Cities-
To be fair, it wasn't the snow that shut down the airport, buses, etc. It was blizzard force winds.

Plowing does no good when the sustained winds are at 30mph with dry snow. They plowed our arterial street at one point yesterday afternoon, and within 15 minutes, you couldn't tell that the plow had ever been there.

(It's also why the Dome room came down- usually they shovel it off, but it wasn't safe to have workers on the roof at the height of the storm, they would have literally blown off the edge).

Things are pretty much back to normal this morning, though they're still plowing out the side streets. I've been to the store and back, and unlike in DC during a storm, the shelves are fully stocked!

I grew up in DC, and I'd say the way we deal with weather here is pretty different. (But until DC has blizzard force winds for 24 hours, don't criticize too much. It's shocking what a difference it makes out here on the prairie!)

Posted by: FC333 | December 12, 2010 2:41 PM | Report abuse

Here's a blog that assesses the efforts of local Minneapolis weathercasters in predicting the blizzard: http://minnesotaweatherforecasters.wordpress.com/

Posted by: eddiedog2 | December 12, 2010 2:41 PM | Report abuse

eddiedog2,
i find it unbelievable, and inexcusable, that the dome collapsed. you illustrated that this was not a huge storm. whether it was the questionable methods used to clear the roof or what, i'm sure the architects/engineers are a bit worried and checking all their calculations.... there's gonna be lots of investigations here about what went wrong. can you imagine if this happened during the game instead of at 5:00am? omg...

Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | December 12, 2010 2:42 PM | Report abuse

Snowing in Ala. & Miss., raining in Ottawa Canada.
Go Steelers.

Posted by: VaTechBob | December 12, 2010 2:56 PM | Report abuse

@Walter In Falls Church. There's another side to this story. The Vikings owners have been lobbying for YEARS to get a new stadium. I'm certain that they will use this instance to further their cause in lobbying for a new stadium.

@FC33 I'm a DC transplant to Mpls as well. I was at the grocery store on Friday and it was VERY reminiscent of the DC panic, though of course that's not usually the case here. Certainly the strong winds exacerbated the situation, but I think 17 inches is going to shut down most places, including Minneapolis.

Posted by: eddiedog2 | December 12, 2010 3:01 PM | Report abuse

eddiedog2,
you got 17" out of 1.1" precip?! that's really light snow. i'm pretty sure our 17" had more QP-whatever...i.e., was heavier. there is no way that should have collapsed. in minnnestoa? come on. 17" and windy has to happen all the time there? right? certainly from back-to-back storms? something "funny" happened w/the roof.

i notice in the videos, the whole thing collapses - like it deflates...the dome became a bowl holding all that snow... then the skin rips.

Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | December 12, 2010 3:23 PM | Report abuse

Walter,
This was the 6th largest snowstorm. So no, we don't get this much very often. DC probably gets just as many megastorms. However, I'm certain that Minneapolis has gotten 10" snows with closer to a 1:10 ratio before so I still think the tear shouldn't have occurred.

Posted by: eddiedog2 | December 12, 2010 3:42 PM | Report abuse

Wisconsin and Minnesota DO have a moisture source...the Upper Great Lakes...but they sometimes partially freeze over as the season progresses.

As we get into March up there, the moisture starts coming back and the mid-March "State Basketball Tournament Storm" is often the biggest snowstorm of the entire winter season...this storm often is good for 12 to 18 inches of snow whenever it happens [2 out of 3 seasons or so].

l2uss, you have not been up in Rochester [where my brother Bob lives with his family] long enough. Before coming to Washington I had twenty two years of experience growing up in Menomonie, Eau Claire, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin,
during the 1950's and 1960's and remember plenty of 12 and 18 inch snowstorms. It is true that the snow is often easier to handle in the Upper Midwest; it's also drier and more powdery because the temperature up there is colder.

Incidentally, today's much-unneeded cruddy mess might just have cost the Redskins the game--they couldn't handle the snap on the final PAT...not that it would have cost us a playoff spot; that opportunity probably vanished with last week's defeat by the Giants.

Posted by: Bombo47jea | December 12, 2010 4:44 PM | Report abuse

I am irritated by the smugness and judgement of the likes of Stantonpark. To pass judgement based on one weekend (or reading one article) is absolutely stupid beyond belief. I grew up in Minneapolis; in fact I spent the first 35 years of my life there and believe me, DC will never, ever hold a candle to snow removal in MN (or any other snowy Northern state). EVER.

You were smart to recognize things got up and moving last night, and this morning people are out and about. My parents still live there, and today they went to church, shopped for groceries and generally went about their daily business - albeit a little slower as the winds keep icing the roads over. I called and told them about the impressions here that stores were empty - they had the best laugh in a long time. Not true. Maybe here or there, but definitely not in general.

Unlike DC, roads are usually cleaned up within 12 hours or so of a "major" snowfall (8 to 10 inches). I know. I was there last week for a 9" snowfall (overnight). No problems getting out and about - just go a little slower and brake sooner. In DC, I won't drive here on the snow - not because I don't know how (I do, given many years of driving experience on snow and ice), but because hardly anyone else does. I witnessed many people saying "oh yeah, I can brake on ice." No. you. cannot. But I digress.

This storm was terrible because of the 50+ mph winds. Of course they pulled the snowplows off the roads! What is the point of trying to plow in the open areas when the winds keep covering up the roads again? Please use some common sense. MNDOT did.

Please, do not ever compare snow cleanup in DC to the northern states. DC will never, ever come close - primarily because they don't need to. On an average year, DC gets what, 10 inches of snow? MN gets about 50-60. The region of upstate NY I used to live in for 4 years gets about 100 inches per year. And even there, in 2008 there was a bad snowstorm, followed by ice, that dropped 25" of snow and ice-laden power lines broke - leaving us without power for 36 hours. While we got plowed out on a regular basis, the roads were terrible for a good long time, because of low temperatures not allowing the ice to melt on the roads (it was too cold for salt to work).

To gloat and shake fingers on the basis of a tiny bit of information in a very large picture is, to me, judgemental, immature and obnoxious. The general advice to not talk about things you have no clue about holds very true in this case.

Posted by: lfitz | December 12, 2010 5:13 PM | Report abuse

@stantonpark: I lived in MPLS for 10 years and DC for 10 years. There is simply no comparison. Minnesotans ski and even bicycle in weather that would cripple most of civilization. DC was shut down for an entire week last year by storms that would shut MPLS down for a day. I recall the '91 storm in MPLS quite well. Once they were able to locate their cars, people dug out and went about their business. In DC, a storm that size would have shut down schools for a week. Also, the schools and universities in the Twin Cities don't close, regardless of how much snow or cold there is. Many times in the mid-90s I had to use bags of "quick-light" charcoal to unfreeze my engine block sufficiently so that I could get to campus. People in DC would never dream of leaving the house in sub-zero real temps with wind chills in the -40 range. Last year I enjoyed cross-country skiing down Rock Creek Parkway during "snow-pocalypse" as DC termed it. It was a pleasant snowstorm, but nothing that Minnesotans would get terribly excited about. Nonetheless, in DC there were stranded, abandoned cars littered everywhere and again, the city was shut down for an entire week. In my 10 years in DC, I have frequently seen schools and the government closed simply due to the THREAT of snow. The panics at grocery and hardware stores are preposterous. Call people who can handle snow and cold "smug" all you want, but your comments bear no relation whatsoever to reality.

Posted by: fatherhennepin | December 12, 2010 8:16 PM | Report abuse

I think the plowing here in Minneapolis is sub-standard. Obviously it's better than cities for which snow is infrequent or sporadic, but much poorer than it should/ could be. If the snow comes on a weekend, plowing is minimal, as it has been to this point. Now (Sunday night) the temperatures are plummeting, the snow is setting up hard as concrete, and will be very difficult to clear. A good 24 hours was lost. Remember last year's Christmas eve snow? The city delayed plowing, and the streets remained coated with packed ice the entire winter. Additionally, the Street Dept is very "old school"- plowing so that pedestrians can walk is a low priority (they pile the snow ONTO the sidewalks to block our way). The city consistently votes DFL (Democrat-Farmer-Labor), such that politicians like our mayor RT Raybak are complacent. The dome caving in? Well it's done that before... presumably it wasn't engineered for the conditions we have here.

Posted by: adamske20 | December 12, 2010 11:17 PM | Report abuse

I suggest that the people who are writing about a moisture source for the Twin Cities as well as "lake-effect" snow get out a map and take a good hard look at it.

Our storms here generally come from the west to northwest. The last time I looked (and the last time I was there) Lake Superior is to the northeast of the Twin Cities. We don't get lake-effect snow here! Please get your facts straight before making ridiculous comments about lake-effect snow. We generally get four to five feet of snow here during the season. The snow is not the issue here so much as the extreme cold temperatures. By the way, we've had snow on the ground since November 13th so this snow was piled up on top of that.

Also, we are on the edge of the Great Plains which means there is little to stop those winds. In many places the snow has been blown into drifts of several feet. Yesterday we had windchills of minus 35 degrees or more. Up here, the windchill factor is far more important than the actual air temperature in the winter.

Bearing that in mind though, my community of 45,000 which lies 20 miles south of the Twin Cities had the main roads plowed, we had no trouble going to church whatsoever and even went out to a restaurant for lunch later.

Yes, for the first time in many years, the public schools in Minneapolis and St. Paul did close today due to not all of the roads being plowed yet and the extreme cold temperatures. This was such a rarity that automated phone calls were made to get the word out to families and staff and I even had a fellow teacher call me to make sure I didn't venture into school!

So tell me, how often do the DC schools close on account of weather?

Posted by: reynoldsk | December 13, 2010 10:41 AM | Report abuse

reynoldsk,
so, how often in the midst of all this cold do you have a day of say 40 degree temps (actual, not wind chill)?

Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | December 13, 2010 9:25 PM | Report abuse

As someone from Minnesota, I thought I would make a few comments.

Does DC get bigger storms then Minnesota? Yes. However, there is a big difference between Minneapolis getting 17 inches and DC. In Minneapolis, this snow will be here until March or April. In Washington, it melts very quickly.

Also, it wasn't the amount of snow that shut down the airport, it was the blizzard. 35 mph winds combined with 17 inches of light powdery snow would shut down any airport in the world.

Posted by: cwy21 | December 14, 2010 5:40 PM | Report abuse

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