Blizzard socks the Twin Cities [UPDATES & VIDEO]

Welcome back to winter.

Welcome back to winter.

The weather forecasters called this one right: The Twin Cities have been inundated with snow measured by the foot rather than just inches. And wind, as promised, is clearly kicking up.

Driving around Minneapolis was sloppy and choppy this morning. Neighbors were helping each other dig out and push their cars. Downtown streets were almost deserted as snowplow drivers did their work. And as the afternoon wore on, conditions got worse.


SLIDESHOW: Your blizzard pics!

Out in the neighborhoods in the morning, folks were embracing the season -- and the shovels and snowblowers to be sure. Kids pegged snowballs at one another. Dog owners gamely followed their Fidos. Die-hard runners were on the trails around the lakes, but the Lake Harriet fun run was called off. The checkout lines at grocery stores were full. Coffee shops and restaurants were busy, but some are closing early.

Update: Good-natured video spoof of local TV news:

Update: Just before 4 p.m., Hennepin County pulled all its plows off the road until 2 a.m.

The blizzard was bad enough that Salvation Army bell ringers called it quits. The flight carrying the New York Giants here for tomorrow's game against teh Vikings has been diverted to Kansas City.

Shoveling out Settergren's Ace Hardware at Penn Avenue South and 54th.

Shoveling out Settergren's Ace Hardware at Penn Avenue South and 54th.

Update: Here's some video from HongPong:

Snow emergency parking rules are now in effect.

In Minneapolis: Starting at 9 p.m. today, park on either side of non-Snow Emergency routes; the ones that do not have the red Snow Emergency Route signs. For Day 2 and 3 rules, click here.

In St. Paul: No parking on streets marked as night plow routes. Parking restrictions begin on roads marked as day plow routes at 8 a.m. Sunday.

Metro Transit said in the morning that most of the 222 buses running on 17 routes were either on time or delayed a few minutes. By the afternoon, only about half were running on time, and delays were up to about eight minutes, and some routes were subject to detours. Update: By 3 p.m., all buses had been called back to the garage; some 70 had bogged down in the snow. Out on the freeways, there are whiteouts and the going was slow and tricky. MNDOT pulled plows off the roads in open areas because the visibility was so bad. And according to the Minnesota State Patrol at noon, 190 vehicles have gone off the road since last night. There have been 36 crashes, two of them with injuries. No fatalities so far. Flights in and out of Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport have been hamstrung. Many airlines began canceling flights ahead of the storm. And all four runways were closed for a time on Saturday. If you're flying anywhere, be sure to call your airline ahead of time. The University of Minnesota's Twin Cities campus closed at 1 p.m. today. All events scheduled to begin at 1 pm or after that are either canceled or postponed, including the men's hockey match against Minnesota Duluth, and the women's hockey match against Ohio State. Sunday sports events are scheduled to go on as scheduled -- for now.

ACT tests for high schoolers around the state were called off because of the weather.

WCCO has a good roundup of school event cancelations and closures here.

The snow should taper off this evening, but the winds are expected to keep on howling, and air temperatures at or below zero will instead feel 20 below zero or worse. In one particular act of near insanity, Robert Stevens, president and CEO of Ridgeview Medical Center in Waconia, remains camped out on the roof of the Dunn Bros coffee shop in Excelsior as a stunt to raise cash for his daughter's private school. Fox 9 says he's raised $50,000 for Spring Hill School so far. We'll be updating the blizzard story as the day progresses, so be sure to check back later. Related: