- Associated Press - Friday, February 24, 2017

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (AP) - After a stretch of spring-like temperatures, winter has returned to parts of Wisconsin and Minnesota in a big way as more than a foot of snow fell in some areas, creating dangerous travel conditions Friday. But the snowfall missed part of northwestern Wisconsin, forcing the cancellation of the American Birkebeiner ski race.

A blizzard warning was issued for southern Minnesota with a winter storm warning in western Wisconsin. Accumulating snow and strong winds were creating low visibility and dangerous travel conditions. Gusty winds of 35 to 45 mph led to whiteout conditions on rural roads.

More than a foot of snow had fallen in southern Minnesota’s Blue Earth County by Friday morning, according to the National Weather Service, with 9 inches in western Wisconsin’s Eau Claire County.

Many students in both states enjoyed a day off from classes, including Mankato, Winona and Rochester in Minnesota and Sparta, Menomonie and Chippewa Falls in Wisconsin. Several college and universities also closed for the day.

Organizers of the American Birkebeiner ski race in northwestern Wisconsin have canceled Saturday’s event, after the snow missed that area. Organizers of the cross-country race near Hayward and Cable, Wisconsin, say record high temperatures and recent rain have made the Birkie course unsafe. It’s only the second time that the race has been canceled.

The American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation bills the event as the largest cross-country ski race in North America. Last year’s event attracted more than 13,000 skiers from 46 states and 22 countries.

Forecasters expected additional snow through Friday night. The heavy snow missed the Twin Cities in Minnesota and the Milwaukee metro area in Wisconsin.

After forecasts called for more snow in some areas, the National Weather Service posted a letter to social media on Friday, explaining how it can be tricky to predict such storms.

“We realize many people made or changed plans based on our forecasts,” the letter read. “We sympathize with those of you out there who are disappointed with the initial forecasts that didn’t work out. We promise to evaluate our messaging and forecasts this week, and continually work to provide you with the best information we possibly can.”

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