Accidents reported on icy roads in west central Minnesota
WILLMAR — Slippery roads and numerous accidents were reported Monday throughout west central Minnesota after a cold front turned mist and fog into ice that covered streets and highways.
The State Patrol and local law enforcement agencies were busy responding to numerous accidents, and road crews were out in force trying to scrape away ice and apply salt and sand to roads before the next weather system moves in with 2 to 12 inches of snow predicted.
In Kandiyohi County alone there were at least 30 accidents reported, including many rollovers and vehicles that had slid into ditches.
Late Sunday night a utility pole on U.S. Highway 71 and Porto Rico Street Northeast in Willmar came down after it was struck by a vehicle, and an accident Monday on 30th Street Northeast involved three vehicles.
Most of the accidents involved property damage with few injuries reported, but the steady stream of calls kept emergency personnel and road crews busy.
"Crappy" is how Tim McCoy, maintenance supervisor for the Minnesota Department of Transportation's District 8 office in Willmar, described road conditions.
"There's a lot of ice cover," McCoy said. "And the cold weather and the wind doesn't help."
During the balmy weekend weather, heavy fog covered much of the state but a cold front moved in and temperatures dropped quickly to single-digits around midnight Sunday that created a thick layer of ice on roads.
"We really never really saw that ice coming," said Kandiyohi County Public Works Director Mel Odens. "When the front came through, it locked on the roads pretty good."
Odens said the Kandiyohi County Sheriff's Office called his department around 1:30 a.m. Monday to alert them to the rapidly changing road conditions.
Road crews from MnDOT and Kandiyohi County were putting down sand and salt, but the strong wind in rural areas was making it difficult to keep sand on the roads and it's too cold for most chemicals to work.
"Everything is slippery," said Todd Miller, maintenance supervisor for the Kandiyohi County Public Works Department. "The rural areas are the worst," he said. "The winds are starting to blow, so we're fighting that battle too."
McCoy said MnDOT is using a product called Beet Heet, made from sugar beets, that's added to salt brine and helps chemicals stick to roads in cold weather.
Snow predicted for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, along with frigid temperatures, could make it challenging for motorists and road crews this entire week.
"Mother Nature deals us what she will," said Miller.
Motorists are advised to drive cautiously and not use their cruise control when driving on icy roads.