Less than a week before spring officially begins, Minnesota isn't in danger of losing its wintry reputation after all.
Planes were grounded, schools were closed, electricity was out and hundreds of traffic accidents were reported -- including two fatalities -- as one of the biggest winter storms of the season dumped more than a foot of snow across the bottom half of the state Thursday.
About 350 school districts in southern Minnesota and western Wisconsin canceled classes Friday, while numerous others started classes an hour or two late.
Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport is expected to be packed throughout the weekend after roughly 300 flights were canceled Thursday. About 200 travelers were stranded there overnight and slept on cots.
"I knew I was taking a chance flying through here, but now I think I want to go back home," said Sara Wilson, 33, of Washington, D.C., whose flight to Palm Springs was canceled.
"I got a shoe shine, bought some magazines, and did some walking around -- basically everything except board another plane," she said. Airplanes also were grounded at the St. Cloud airport.
Accumulations in the heaviest band of snow ranged from 8 inches to 18 inches by Friday morning, the National Weather Service said. Points north of the Twin Cities dodged the worst of it, and most of the storm missed far northern Minnesota.
"We're catching up for lost time this winter," said Bob Weisman, a meteorologist at St. Cloud State University, where snow fell at the rate of nearly 2 inches per hour and more than 14 inches of snow was reported.
"We're not going to be golfing for a while," Weisman said.
Snowplow crews worked through the night in the Twin Cities, and most major freeways were in fairly good shape in time for the morning rush hour Friday.
"Give the plows plenty of room," said Minnesota Department of Transportation spokesman Kent Barnard. "Start out early and expect the worst. Be patient."
At least 200 weather-related accidents were reported around the Twin Cities on Thursday, including a crash that killed two people in Plymouth.
A taxi traveling south on Interstate 494 crossed into the northbound lane Thursday morning and collided with a tractor-trailer. The driver and the passenger in the taxi died. The highway was closed for more than two hours.
Dozens of other mostly minor accidents were reported elsewhere in the state.
In Stearns County, a State Patrol trooper received minor injuries when his car was hit in a multi-car pileup about 5 p.m. at the Melrose exit on Interstate 94 near New Munich. The crash closed the westbound lanes of I-94 for about six hours.
Stranded motorists sought shelter at the armory in Sauk Centre after local hotels were full. Freeport also offered its community center, said Stearns County Sheriff Jim Kostreba.
In Owatonna, power was restored to roughly 22,000 customers after high winds slapped power lines in the southern Minnesota city. Power outages also were reported in parts of the Twin Cities, Faribault, Mankato and Rochester.
But skiers packed one of the state's most popular ski areas, Buck Hill, just south of the Twin Cities. Buck Hill had 48 inches of base due to the new snow and all 13 of its trails were open.
For others, the storm brought a hefty reminder of what it means to be Minnesotan.
Adreanne Johnson, 22, left early Thursday night from her tax-help booth at a south Minneapolis grocery store only to find she left the headlights on in her car and killed her battery.
"I'm a Minnesotan; I'm used to it," Johnson said. "But I wish it had stayed away."
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