DULUTH, Minn. (AP) — The state closed offices Wednesday in five Minnesota counties hit particularly hard by a late winter snow storm.
Minnesota Management & Budget Commissioner Jim Schowalter declare a weather emergency and closed executive branch offices in Aitkin, Pine, Carlton, St. Louis and Lake counties.
The storm canceled classes at dozens of school districts across Minnesota. University of Minnesota campuses at Duluth and Morris shut down as well.
The National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning much of Minnesota, with the heaviest snow in the central region. About a foot of snow fell at Alexandria and Douglas with about 8 inches at Sauk Centre.
One business that would seem to welcome the new snow, Spirit Mountain ski resort in Duluth, was closed Wednesday because winds reaching 40 miles per hour made conditions on the slopes dangerous.
Xcel Energy said there were widespread power outages in Minnesota Wednesday with about 16,000 customers without service. State troopers were busy responding to dozens of crashes on state highways.
The National Weather Service posted a blizzard warning for the Twin Ports as the storm whipped up winds gusting to more than 60 mph at the head of Lake Superior. Snow falling at more than an inch an hour causing near-whiteout conditions. City officials in Duluth urged residents to stay off the roads as plows attempted to keep up with blowing and drifting snow.
"Even if you manage to get in to work today, you might not be able to make it back home," said Kelly Fleissner, manager of maintenance operations for the city.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation is advising against travel on Interstate 35 and state Highway 23 south from Duluth.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.