Storm brings heavy snow to west central Minnesota
WILLMAR — State highways were closed, plows were pulled off the roads and church services were cancelled Sunday as a powerful winter storm roared across west central Minnesota leaving more than a foot of snow — with some reports of a foot and a half of snow— in the area.
Many local schools will be at least two hours late this morning to give plows a chance to clear roads. Some west central Minnesota districts had already decided Sunday night to close schools today.
“Snow, snow and more snow,” said Kandiyohi County Deputy Todd Neumann, who spent much of Sunday patrolling county roads, and finding vehicles stuck in the middle of snow-filled roads. He helped direct several out-of-town travelers to hotels for the night to wait out the blizzard that whipped snow around in wind gusts of over 30 mph.
The weekend storm was “the most significant winter storm event we’ve seen since February of 2011,” said Mike Griesinger, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
He said the region will easily accumulate 12-16 inches of snow.
Early in the day snow plows attempted to clear roads but in many cases were able to get just a single lane plowed before it quickly filled in with snow.
“It’s hard to tell where they’ve plowed and where they haven’t,” said Neumann.
Counties and the Minnesota Department of Transportation pulled the plows from roads by mid-afternoon and MnDOT and the State Patrol closed all state highways to Granite Falls, Madison, Marshall, Montevideo, Pipestone, Redwood Falls and Willmar because of hazardous weather conditions.
The Chippewa County Sheriff’s office reported zero visibility, “dangerous weather conditions” and highways “clogged with snow” on Sunday afternoon. The sheriff warned that people who risked traveling also risked a delay in response if they had trouble on the road because law enforcement and tow trucks would have difficulty reaching them.
In Kandiyohi County, the plows were not going to be back on the roads until 5 a.m. today.
Despite warnings and advisories that travel be restricted only for emergencies, Neumann said there were numerous cars in the ditch and vehicles stuck on the exit ramps that had filled with heavy blowing snow.
“Cars out here and drivers are making bad choices,” said Neumann, adding that he had been stuck a few times while responding to a call because he was forced to drive around vehicles that were stuck in the middle of the exit ramps.
Neumann said a vehicle collided with a snowplow this morning at a stop sign a County Roads 7 and 27 north of Willmar. There were no injuries reported in that incident.
Neumann said drivers need to “give those plows plenty of room because they need to get their work done.”
Cold temperatures today could make it a challenge to clear snow.
Griesinger said the temperatures will not make it out of the single digits.
By Tuesday it will begin to warm up and temperatures could be in the 20s and even 30s.
But that doesn’t mean a heat wave.
“With the nice snowpack on the ground it’s tough to warm it up until March,” said Griesinger.
It should be dry the rest of the week but there is another chance of snow coming this weekend with more possible chances of snow before Christmas.