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Snowstorm hits the Northland: More than 8 inches unexpectedly blanket Duluth

Large waves break as they near Canal Park and an ice-encased bench along the Lakewalk Sunday afternoon. The city of Duluth recommends that people stay off the Lakewalk Trail in Canal Park because of icy conditions. Strong winds have caused the boardwalk, paved sections, benches and large boulders to be covered with thick layers of ice or slush, along with gravel and other debris. (Steve Kuchera / Forum News Service)

DULUTH — Although the storm was predicted to only graze the Twin Ports with snowfall, the flakes began to fall on Sunday morning, April 15, and didn't stop.

The National Weather Service reported that 8.5 inches of snow had fallen at its office in Hermantown by 5:30 p.m. Sunday. The storm was predicted to diminish in intensity on Sunday night, but even more snow was expected in some areas near Lake Superior in the overnight hours of Sunday.

Some roads remained snow covered or impassable on Sunday evening and the Weather Service advised people to avoid road travel, especially in the Twin Ports and Northwestern Wisconsin, overnight Sunday. As of Sunday evening, the Duluth and Superior school districts along with Stella Maris Academy announced that Monday would be a snow day, while Esko and Carlton school districts announced a two-hour delay to the start of school.

Statewide, the Minnesota State Patrol reported that it responded to 558 crashes, 1,058 vehicles either going off the road or spinning out and 20 semis that had jackknifed between Friday morning and 4:30 p.m. Sunday. Of the crashes, 64 resulted in injuries. Crashes in Brainerd and St. Cloud resulted in serious injuries, and one crash in Medina, Minn., resulted in a fatality, according to the State Patrol.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation declared U.S. Highway 2 impassable due to weather conditions and, at 7 a.m. Sunday, closed the highway between Sanborn Avenue and State Highway 13 in the city of Ashland. The highway was expected to be closed until Monday morning and drivers were asked to use the alternate route on State Highway 137.

Crews planned to get the upper hand on clearing the roads so that the weather would have a minimal impact on Monday morning's commute. The Weather Service noted that Iron and Ashland counties on the South Shore may continue to have difficult road conditions where lake-effect snow was predicted to linger into Monday. For road condition updates, check 511mn.org in Minnesota or 511wi.gov in Wisconsin.

Strong north-northeast winds and high waves continued into Sunday evening, causing lakeshore flooding. Despite the prediction that the wind and waves would begin to diminish Sunday night, the Weather Service advised the public to keep a safe distance from the lake, as damage to lakeshore infrastructure may be unseen and the freezing temperatures have caused the surfaces near the lake to become coated in ice. The city of Duluth recommends that people stay off the Lakewalk Trail in Canal Park because of icy conditions, according to a news release. Strong winds have caused the boardwalk, paved sections, benches and large boulders to be covered with thick layers of ice, along with gravel and other debris.

"Please keep your distance from Lake Superior and do not risk your life to see the big waves," the Weather Service stated on Sunday night.

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