Another Monday and another reminder that winter appears to be far from over
WILLMAR — Another Monday, another winter storm. Welcome to March in Minnesota.
Snowfall amounts in Willmar and the region were not great, but strong winds whipped up white-out conditions across west central Minnesota and disrupted daily life again. Schools and colleges called off classes, community activities were canceled or postponed and travel conditions were difficult at best — some western Minnesota highways were closed much of the day to the north and west of Willmar.
Many area schools have been closed due to the weather six days this winter.
“This is an unusual number of days,” Willmar Superintendent Jerry Kjergaard said.
Willmar students will have a full day of school June 7. That’s the last day built in to the district’s schedule for snow make-up days.
A year ago, the weather was warm, and many people were wearing spring and summer clothes already. “I’d rather have last winter than this winter … but it’s the weather we’ve got,” he said.
The latest report from the National Weather Service and its observers shows just 3 inches of snow fell in Willmar, but strong winds prompted a blizzard warning for the region initially on Monday, giving way to a winter weather advisory for blowing and drifting snow.
Other snowfall totals in the region were 5.1 inches at Alexandria, 3.2 inches at St. Cloud, 3 inches at Spicer, 2 inches at Montevideo and Morris and 1.5 inches at Redwood Falls.
White-out conditions were being reported by drivers on Monday afternoon in and around Willmar, as well as Pennock and areas to the southwest like Clara City and Maynard.
Kandiyohi County pulled its plows at 3 p.m. due to adverse weather conditions with plans to return to work this morning.
Minnesota Department of Transportation plows continued to work Monday afternoon and evening, but officials warned that travel conditions were not good. MnDOT on Monday evening said no unnecessary travel was advised near Sauk Centre, Belgrade and Paynesville due to blowing snow, drifting and reduced visibility.
As the night wore on, MnDOT advised no travel on many roads in western Minnesota.
MnDOT District 8 Public Affairs Coordinator TJ Melcher said most of the roads in the area were rated as “difficult” or “hazardous” driving conditions Monday afternoon, and he urged caution whether there was a travel advisory or not.
“The driving conditions are tough. Just because the road is not closed … doesn’t mean that it’s without risk,” he said Monday afternoon.
“Motorists really have to exercise some personal responsibility and decide if their travel is essential or not.”
Travel conditions are what determine school closings, of course.
When Supt. Kjergaard looks back on the days school was canceled, he said, “I don’t think there are any of them we should have had school on.”
Kjergaard trusts the local bus companies to gauge the weather and tell him whether they can drive in it. “The bus companies are very good at knowing where they can go,” he said.
The forecast for Willmar today includes a 20 percent chance of snow showers, a high temperature around 16 degrees and a -22 wind chill, caused by northwest winds from 10 to 20 mph and gusts to 25 mph.
Tribune staffers Linda Vanderwerf, Gretchen Schlosser and Susan Lunneborg contributed to this report.