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A city of Willmar plow removes snow Tuesday from Minnesota Avenue Southeast. Heavy snow began falling in Willmar around 6:45 a.m. Tuesday morning before tapering off in the late morning and afternoon. Tribune photo by Gary Miller

In a pre-April Fool's Day farce, heavy snow makes cameo before heading north

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Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

WILLMAR -- An expected late blast of winter weather fizzled out quickly in much of west central Minnesota Tuesday.

Some forecasts predicted a blizzard, but it produced just a few inches of heavy wet snow in much of west central Minnesota. Snow came down fast and furious in the early morning, prompting many area schools to close for the day. Sleet in the night gave way to wet snow that left roads slushy and slick in the morning. The huge snow flakes also caused limited visibility. However, the snow tapered off in late morning, and it stopped by early afternoon.

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The weather was much worse farther north, said National Weather Service meteorologist Tony Zaleski.

Eastern North Dakota and northern Minnesota got more snow he said in a telephone interview Tuesday.

It helped in the Fargo-Moorhead area and other communities threatened by flooding that the precipitation was falling in the form of snow, Zaleski said. Snow would take a little longer to move into streams and rivers than rain would have.

Zaleski said west central Minnesota could expect some light snow during the night, but "the brunt of it is gone."

The Minnesota Department of Transportation issued travel advisories in some counties on Tuesday morning, but those advisories were lifted in the afternoon.

"We've been out plowing all day, and sanding," said Swift County Engineer Andy Sander. By mid-afternoon Tuesday, blacktop roads were OK for driving, though gravel roads were still slushy.

At this time of year, gravel roads have started to thaw, he said, and plowing pushes the gravel off the roads and into ditches.

More than a dozen schools in the region cancelled classes Tuesday.

Most districts started with a two-hour late start but then cancelled classes before buses were sent out as conditions worsened.

School superintendents talk to their transportation managers, bus drivers and with superintendents in neighboring districts when deciding whether to hold classes or not.

Many districts have had more late starts, early dismissals and cancellations than usual this year. By most accounts, it hasn't been this bad since 1997.

While it's always fun to have an unexpected day off from school for a storm, New London-Spicer students will be going an extra day on June 5 to make up for Tuesday. "That'll be news to the kids," said Carlson.

Other districts may also be adjusting their calendars and extending the school year.

Willmar Superintendent Jerry Kjergaard said the staff may be required to work an extra couple days after school ends, because they have been paid for the days school was closed.

The time could be used for staff training or to give teachers time to pack in their classrooms, he said. Willmar is undergoing a major reorganization of its elementary schools and middle school, and many teachers will be moving to different rooms or different buildings before the next school year.

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