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Adam Hess clears snow from vehicles on the lot Thursday at Mills Auto Center in Willmar. Tribune photo by Ron Adams

Snowstorm blankets the region and leads to dozens of accidents

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Snowstorm blankets the region and leads to dozens of accidents
Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

WILLMAR -- Snowy, icy roads contributed to more than 30 crashes in Kandiyohi County as several inches of new snow piled up Wednesday night and Thursday morning.


No injuries were reported, but local law enforcement officials are urging motorists to be careful on the slick roads and in intersections blocked with snow.

"People have got to reduce speed. They have to be ready to brake," said Marilee Dorn, crime prevention and community policing coordinator with the Willmar Police Department.

In two separate incidents, vehicles were damaged by snowplows working to clear snow in private parking lots.

A city of Willmar snowplow also clipped a car while removing snow in an alley off Sixth Street Southwest.

Curves and intersections were among the main trouble spots, Dorn said.

The casualties included a car that was hit by a garbage truck shortly after 7 a.m. Thursday on the curve along East Litchfield Avenue.

A vehicle that missed a turn into the parking lot at Roosevelt School ended up stuck in a snowbank Thursday morning on 19th Avenue. Willmar Police Department officers helped with traffic control while the vehicle was removed.

Even for semis, the falling snow and slippery roads made for difficult driving conditions Wednesday night and Thursday morning.

State troopers were brought in to help when a semi left the road and went into the ditch at about 6:40 p.m. Wednesday on state Highway 7 west of Prinsburg.

Ice and snow caused a semi to get stuck in the intersection of Highway 23 and County Road 9 shortly after 4 a.m. Thursday. A snowplow also went into the ditch Thursday morning on County Road 5 southwest of Willmar.

Kandiyohi County crews started clearing roads around 5 a.m. Thursday.

Dave Fritz, maintenance engineer with the Kandiyohi County Public Works Department, said crews opened up the roads and were going to be "back at it again" today.

"As long as the wind doesn't blow we're doing just fine," he said.

Fritz reminded people that it is illegal to push snow from private drives across any state, county or township road.

Once that snow is deposited on the side of the ditch it gets hard, causes problems for snowplows and could injure motorists if they hit a hard four-foot snowbank, said Fritz.

He said road crews have been seeing evidence of this violation occurring for the last couple weeks

"It is against the law. You could get a fine," he said. But he said the liability for injuring someone who hits the snowbank is the biggest risk.

The Willmar Municipal Airport recorded 7.7 inches of snow for this latest storm, the second in less than a week. Snow totals measured 6.5 inches at the Litchfield airport and 5 inches in Montevideo and Renville. The National Weather Service storm report said there was 8 inches in Benson.

The city of Willmar declared a snow emergency from midnight to 6 a.m. today in the central business district. Vehicles left on the street will be towed at the owner's expense, city officials said.

Officials said downtown residents and employees could park their vehicles in city parking lots until the snow emergency ends. The central business district extends from First Street to Seventh Street Southeast and from Trott Avenue to the bypass.

The Willmar Police Department is enforcing the city's on-street parking ordinance and issuing tickets to vehicles that are left at the curb for more than 48 hours, Dorn said.

Several citations were given after Saturday's storm and some vehicles have already been towed, she said. "If we didn't get them, now they're buried again."

Motorists can prepare for winter driving conditions by bundling up properly and allowing extra time to reach their destination, Dorn said.

Snow needs to be removed from vehicles so that the driver can see out, she said. "All the windows have to be cleared before you drive."

If you slide into the ditch, it's best to stand well off the road while you're waiting for help, rather than risk having another vehicle slide into you, Dorn said.

The state's "move over" law for emergency vehicles also applies to tow trucks, she said. Drivers should try to move a full lane away from tow trucks.

-- Staff writer Carolyn Lange contributed to this story.

Anne Polta

Anne Polta covers health care, business/economic development and general assignment. Her HealthBeat blog can be found at Follow her on Twitter at @AnnePolta.

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