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Al Gregersen of Willmar clears the sidewalks Thursday around the Phoenix on Fifth apartments in Willmar. Greg-ersen's one comment about his task: "It's cold." Tribune photo by Ron Adams

Snow, cold continue to cause havoc across area

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A dispatcher at the Lac qui Parle County Sheriff's Office in Madison described road conditions Thursday afternoon as "crappy'' as a winter storm brought heavy snow to the parts of the region.

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The dispatcher said state plows were working but county plows were not working. The dispatcher said city plows opened main roads for emergency purposes.

All schools in Lac qui Parle County and many businesses were closed and games were cancelled.

"Basically nothing's happening today,'' she said.

Chippewa County Sheriff's Office dispatcher Cory Johnson said he had heard about 5½ inches of snow had fallen in the Montevideo area, but Johnson said conditions were not as bad as in other areas.

"We've had it definitely a lot worse,'' Johnson said.

Schools were closed and the Chippewa County Courthouse closed early. As of noon, he said, two cars were reported stuck. Johnson said roads were starting to drift over and were ice-packed, but everything was open. Motorists were advised to use caution.

Jeff Butson, operations superintendent for the Willmar district office of the Minnesota Department of Transportation, said roads east of Willmar and over to the Hutchinson area were in good driving condition with a little light drifting snow.

But Butson said severe drifting was a problem on roads west of Montevideo and Granite Falls and in the Madison area. He said roads were reduced to one lane in some areas "and we're pushing them open.'' He said MnDOT had a snowblower working on state Highway 67 west of Granite Falls and another working in the Madison area.

Butson said visibility ranged from up to half a mile to zero in areas.

"That's why it's treacherous,'' Butson said. "That snow just keeps coming back and the guys are trying to keep 'em open and they're working at it. The visibility for us is tough. I'd like to reiterate that don't be going someplace tonight if you don't have to.''

The storm postponed some athletic activities at RCW, BOLD and Paynesville schools, and two community activities were cancelled in Olivia and Willmar.

Interstate 90 was closed from Fairmont west across southwestern Minnesota and into South Dakota on Thursday. Strong wind caused zero visibility and heavy drifts that snowplow drivers couldn't clear, MnDOT spokeswoman Rebecca Arndt said. Some parts of southwestern Minnesota had received 8.5 inches of snow by Thursday morning.

All highways in Cottonwood, Jackson, Nobles and Rock counties in southwestern Minnesota were also closed due to the storm, including Highway 60 from St. James west and Highway 71 from Sanborn south.

MnDOT reported difficult driving conditions across most of the rest of southern Minnesota.

Tom Hanson, commissioner of Minnesota Management and Budget, declared a weather emergency in the four southwestern counties and ordered all state government offices there closed as of noon. Only employees who were required by their agencies were to keep working.

Arrivals at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport were nearly on schedule, but departures for Chicago-O'Hare and Newark, N.J., were delayed due to snowstorms in those cities.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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David Little
David Little covers the Willmar City Council, Willmar Municipal Utilities and other city news.
(320) 235-1150
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