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Snow removal crews work Sunday to keep the parking lot near Papa Murphy’s in Willmar accessible as heavy snow falls at a fast pace. Tribune photo by Ron Adams

Snowstorm brings travel to virtual standstill across large area of west central Minnesota

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WILLMAR - First came the sleet and freezing rain, then came the snow.

Travel came to a standstill across the region Sunday as a large winter storm dumped several inches of wintry precipitation over much of Minnesota. The heaviest snow fell in a large swath across the central part of the state, where many towns got half a foot or more of new snow.

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“Tough shape” is how a dispatcher at the Chippewa County Sheriff’s Office described road conditions Sunday .

There were some reports of cars in ditches but most people seemed to be heeding the advice of authorities and staying off the roads, he said.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation reported difficult winter driving conditions on Sunday and was advising no travel. U.S. Highway 12 from Grove City to Benson contained slick areas from freezing rain and visibility was poor, MnDOT said.

Driving also was difficult on many county roads. Kandiyohi County pulled its snow plows off the roads early Sunday afternoon. In Renville County, plows went out Sunday but were staying on paved roads only.

Sixty area youth and their families had to put their plans for a religious confirmation service on hold this weekend because of the weather. The confirmation service, to be presided over by The Most Rev. John LeVoir, bishop of the New Ulm Diocese, was slated for Sunday morning at the Church of St. Mary in Willmar but was canceled Friday in anticipation of the storm.

“I’m glad we made that decision,” said The Rev. Steve Verhelst, pastor at St. Mary’s. “I know it affected many people.”

The parish was “fortunately able to reschedule it” for this coming Sunday, he said.

The weekend storm was the second largest of the season. Strong winds out of the northwest were expected to pick up Sunday night, leading to further deterioration of driving conditions with blowing snow and whiteout conditions. Light snow also was forecast to continue this morning and then taper off in the afternoon.

Colder air is predicted for most of the week.

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Anne Polta

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

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