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Snowfall a boon for Upper Midwest outdoors fans

Source : AP
Last Updated: Tue, Dec 11, 2012 05:00 hrs

After enduring last year's snowless winter, skiers and snowmobilers may have despaired of ever seeing a decent snowfall again.

But fans of the wintry outdoors got their wish this weekend when a slow-moving storm dumped up to 16 inches of snow on parts of the Upper Midwest.

"With global warming in the back of your mind, you think, 'Jeez, is it ever going to snow again?' " John Munger of Minneapolis said Monday after a morning of cross-country skiing in a western Twin Cities park.

The dearth of snow has been tough on cross-country skiers, said Munger, who heads The Loppet Foundation — the "evangelists of cross-country skiing," as he explains it.

The Twin Cities saw only meager bursts of snow this season before the weekend storm, and the Twin Cities' heaviest snowfall last winter was 4.2 inches on Dec. 3.

But with the fresh blast, "I think people are pretty excited," he said.

At Lutsen Mountains 90 miles northeast of Duluth, Minn., marketing director Jim Vick said you could "hear the hoots and hollers" as skiers took to the slopes amid the falling snow. The ski resort got up to 8 inches Sunday.

Vick said Monday that "folks really felt cheated by last winter because they just didn't get the snow and they are dying for it."

Mike Frattallone, co-owner of a Twin Cities hardware store chain, said Monday his 18 stores are have sold a lot of snow shovels, ice melt and "hundreds" of snowblowers since Sunday's snow.

With a dry winter like last year's, Frattalone said, "You just really look at your million dollars' worth of snowblowers and say, 'What are we going to do with you?' "

In central Wisconsin, Randy Thurs of the Trailmates Snowmobile Club in Wausau said the burst of snow has him thinking about the upcoming snowmobile season.

"Hopefully we'll have a better season than we did last year," Thurs said Monday. The club of about 150 families grooms 80 miles of area snowmobile trails.

Normally, the trails would be open for a couple months, but were open only five days last year, Thurs said.

The system dropped 10.6 inches of snow at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and up to 14 inches on parts of the Twin Cities on Sunday, Minneapolis' heaviest snow since 11.8 inches on Feb. 20, 2011.

A blizzard two years ago dumped 16.3 inches and caused the Metrodome roof to collapse. This time around, stadium officials resorted to blasting the heat in an effort to melt snow from the roof as quickly as possible; it stayed intact.

Slippery roads were blamed for hundreds of crashes and at least two deaths from Minnesota to Oklahoma, and two other deaths were related to the wintry weather.

The Minnesota State Patrol reported more than 600 crashes by Monday morning, and at least 1,140 spinouts. One person was killed Sunday in a crash involving a semi near Red Wing, Minn. And in New Prague, school officials said a 54-year-old social studies teacher at the middle school died while shoveling snow at his home Sunday, KSTP-TV reported.

In southern Oklahoma, a Dallas man was killed early Monday when he lost control of his sport utility vehicle on an icy bridge on Interstate 35, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol said.

Authorities in Kansas said freezing overnight temperatures may have contributed to the death of a 30-year-old woman whose body was found in a field early Monday.

Even Texas got a taste of winter, as an arctic blast dumped up to 5 inches of snow in parts of West Texas and dropped temperatures into the teens in part of the Panhandle. Strong winds cut electricity to about 3,000 homes and businesses in Austin, but Austin Energy reports all but a handful of customers had power restored by midday Monday.



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