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Tom Kubesh operates a Kandiyohi County snowplow Monday as he spreads sand on a portion of County Road 8 near Green Lake Lutheran Church. Roads in the area remain hazardous. Tribune photo by Gary Miller

For motorists in west central Minnesota, rough roads ahead

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WILLMAR — Motorists will continue to have a rough and slow go for a few more days.

State highways and county roads throughout southwestern Minnesota remain compacted and slick after a weekend snowstorm forced the closure of roadways throughout southwestern and west central Minnesota.

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It will take at least a couple of days, and warmer temperatures, before state highways can be cleared of the hard, compacted snow, said TJ Melcher, public affairs coordinator with the Minnesota Department of Transportation for District 8 in Willmar.

He urges motorists to slow down and be watchful of snowplows, which still have lots of work ahead of them.

Chemicals used to melt ice are not effective when temperatures are below 20 degrees. And, plows cannot get their blades under the compacted snow to scrape it away until the chemicals are able to start working, he explained.

The weekend snowstorm forced MnDOT and county highway departments in the region to pull the plows by the middle of the afternoon on Sunday. Most of the major highways in the district were closed, including state highways 7, 40, 23, 67 and 19 and U.S. highways 71 (south of Willmar), 59 and 75.  

High winds and steady snowfall made it too dangerous to keep the plows on the roads, said Melcher.

Fighting this storm was complicated by snowfall amounts that topped 12 inches in some areas, strong winds, and the fact that it was an early storm. Snowplow drivers reported that as soon as the wet snow was plowed, it froze, leaving slick roads in the wake, Melcher said.

“Once you plowed it, then it got so slippery underneath,’’ said Kevin Sing, maintenance director in Renville County. Two of the county’s plows slid off the icy roads and had to be assisted.

The storm was a slow moving and widespread system, but the greater share of problems on state highways was reported along a band that ran from Ivanhoe to Marshall, Madison, Granite Falls, Montevideo and Willmar.  

Snowplows resumed work at 5 a.m. Monday, but were hampered by the number of disabled vehicles, according to Melcher. There were disabled vehicles, including semi-truck rigs, on highways throughout the district.

During the weekend storm, there were a few situations in the district where snowplows were called for emergency medical calls to lead ambulances on runs from homes to hospitals, said Melcher.  

In Renville County, sheriff’s deputies unsuccessfully attempted to reach a motorist stranded north of Danube at 8 p.m. Sunday. He was nearly out of gas when a Renville County snowplow made its way to rescue him around 5 a.m. Monday.

The stranded motorist was wearing shoes and a light jacket, and did not have a cap, according to information provided to Sing.

The winds and limited visibility proved to be the biggest challenge on Sunday, according to highway engineers in the area. There was 15 inches of snow reported in the Montevideo area, said Steve Kubista, Chippewa County engineer.

Kandiyohi County Public Works Director Gary Danielson said there were no major incidents reported during the storm, but he also cautioned motorists that it will take time to clear the snow compacted roads.

“It’s hard to get rid of that compaction when it gets that cold,’’ he said.

Snow cleanup proved to be challenging as well for municipal crews and contractors Monday in the region, clearing more than a foot of snow from residential and business districts.

A large section of Central Avenue in downtown New London was blocked with a huge mountain of snow that extended midway down the street. Traffic and parking was restricted to one lane for a stretch.

The snow will be hauled away today and dumped on an empty lot on the outskirts of New London, according to City Clerk Trudie Guptill.

Crews were out early Monday morning in Spicer clearing streets but at least seven vehicles had to be towed to get the streets cleared.

“People don’t remember that they can’t park on the streets,” said City Administrator Leslie Valiant. “We do have snow ordinances.”

Considering this was the first big snow event for the season, Valiant said the cleanup “went pretty well.”

Staff Writer Carolyn Lange contributed to this story.

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Tom Cherveny
Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.
(320) 214-4335
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