By Tom Cherveny
WILLMAR — Wind-whipped snow made travel difficult, closed schools and led to the cancellation of sporting events and other activities, but as Minnesotans say so fondly, it could have been worse.
Sheriff’s offices in west central Minnesota reported no major traffic accidents or reports of stranded motorists on Monday, as the area dug out from a winter blast that arrived on Sunday. A foot of snow fell in Glenwood, while Montevideo recorded 11 inches and Benson 10.5 inches. Spicer saw 8.2 inches and Willmar, 7.9 inches, according to the National Weather Service in Chanhassen. Wind gusts were topping 40 mph by 4 a.m. Monday in portions of Chippewa, Swift, Lac qui Parle and Yellow Medicine counties, creating blizzard conditions. Wind speeds of more than 25 mph were reported well into the afternoon.
Snow lows had a challenging time staying ahead of it all on Monday, according to Denny Marty, maintenance supervisor with the Minnesota Department of Transportation in Willmar.
The most difficult driving conditions were reported in the area including Madison, Montevideo and Granite Falls. It received more snow, and the strong winds kept filling in the roads as quickly as the plows could clear them.
Roads were hard-packed with snow and had icy patches, and will remain that way until crews can sand and salt them today. It was too windy to effectively sand or salt them Monday, said Marty.
With warmer temperatures forecast today, he is optimistic that road conditions will be much improved.
Poor visibility and slippery stretches on snow-packed roads were to blame for vehicles going off the road throughout the region, but the numbers were not great. By midday Monday, sheriff’s officers in Renville County had responded to reports of three cars and one semi-trailer rig that had left the roadway.
Similar numbers of incidents were reported in Chippewa, Lac qui Parle, Swift and Yellow Medicine counties, all among the western counties hit hardest by the one-two punch of snow and wind.
And yes, it was worse to the west and north. The storm caused the temporary closing of Highway 10 from Moorhead to Audubon; Highway 210 from Fergus Falls to Breckenridge; and Interstate 94 from Alexandria to Moorhead.
In the Dakotas, Interstate 29 from Sioux Falls, S.D., to Grand Forks, N.D., and Interstate 94 from Fargo, N.D., to Jamestown were closed.
By Tom Cherveny