Freezing rain, snow mark return of normal winter weather: Ice, winds knock out power for some in west central area

MINNEAPOLIS -- Now that's the winter we know and love. After a stretch of relatively mild weather, Minnesota and North Dakota received a jolting reminder Tuesday that it is indeed February in the Upper Midwest. The National Weather Service has al...

Slippery roads led to crashes, including this two-vehicle accident with no injuries on Trott Avenue Southwest at the railroad crossing in Willmar. The driver of the westbound passenger car, in background, lost control as it crossed the tracks jumping the median, striking the eastbound pickup broadside. TRIBUNE/Rand Middleton

MINNEAPOLIS - Now that’s the winter we know and love.
After a stretch of relatively mild weather, Minnesota and North Dakota received a jolting reminder Tuesday that it is indeed February in the Upper Midwest. The National Weather Service has all but the extreme southwestern counties of Minnesota and much of eastern North Dakota under a winter weather advisory, with snow and freezing rain falling statewide.
Bill Borghoff, a weather service meteorologist at the Twin Cities office, said most of the state could expect moderate snowfall, with heavier concentrations in central and eastern Minnesota midday.
“It’s more of a mix of rain and snow in southern Minnesota right now,” he said at about 11 a.m. “We are forecasting 3 to 5 inches of snow north of I-94, with maybe an inch or two south” of the interstate.
In eastern North Dakota, most places saw 1 to 3 inches of snow followed up by freezing drizzle. Jeff Makowski, a meteorologist with Grand Forks office of the weather service, said the wind was not exacerbating things during the day, but he expected the wind to pick up as temperatures fall in the evening.
For the most part, utilities were not affected by the storm. Some 900 Xcel Energy customers in west-central Minnesota, including Clara City, Raymond, Prinsburg and Blomkest, went without power for three hours Tuesday morning, according to Xcel Energy spokesperson Tom Hoen, but power was restored by 10:17 a.m.
Freezing drizzle had coated power lines with ice, and gusting winds apparently whipped them together.
Borghoff said this week will see temperatures dropping steadily until Friday, when there will be a slight uptick followed by more cold weather. Temperatures in Minnesota are expected to reach single digits below zero Wednesday night, with highs on Thursday at about 10 degrees before flirting with 20 degrees on Friday.
North Dakota will see a similar pattern, Makowski said, with single-digit to low-teen highs and increase in wind speeds giving the air an extra bite.
While a pattern of a few cold days followed by a brief warm up is not unusual for this time of the year in the Upper Midwest, Borghoff said the frequency of cold fronts moving through the area is unusually high.
“We’re going to see a number of cold fronts coming through in the next couple days,” he said. “Each day is going to bring something a little different.”
According to Makowski, the plains of North Dakota are particularly prone to oscillating temperatures.
“We’re susceptible to intrusions of that colder Canadian air, but with westerly winds we can get warmer air to bring the temperature back up,” he said.
Even though it was not record-breaking, January was a warmer and drier month than usual, according to the weather service.
In Duluth, the average daily high temperature was 1 degree higher than average, while it was 2 degrees higher in the Twin Cities and 6.3 degrees higher in Fargo. Precipitation totals were slightly lower than average across the state.
Tom Cherveny contributed to this report.

Icy Roads contribute to area accidents

Besides interrupting electrical service to some area communities, the ice and wind were factors in a number of traffic accidents. Here are summaries of accidents reported Tuesday in west central Minnesota.

Multiple people injured Tuesday morning in crash west of Stewart
STEWART - Multiple people were injured around 7:45 a.m. Tuesday in a car accident along U.S. Highway 212 west of Stewart.
Jacob A. Deal, 25, of Buffalo Lake, was reportedly traveling eastbound on Highway 212, attempting to slow for traffic, when he lost control of his Dodge Magnum. His vehicle then struck a Chevrolet Malibu driven by Curtis L. Thul, 63, of Hector.
The State Patrol said roads were icy at the time.
Both Deal and Thul were transported to Hutchinson Hospital for what were described as non-life-threatening injuries.
Two passengers in the Dodge Magnum also suffered non-life-threatening injuries: Nathan J. Knutson, 28, of Buffalo Lake and Andrew J. Auld, 29, of Hutchinson.
Two injured in Tuesday morning accident near Granite Falls GRANITE FALLS - Two people were injured around 5:30 a.m. Tuesday in an accident along U.S. Highway 212 near Granite Falls.
Tanya R. Jeseritz, 46, of Granite Falls, was reportedly traveling westbound on Highway 212 in a Pontiac Grand Am when she lost control of her vehicle on the icy roadway. Her vehicle then reportedly collided with a Ford Explorer driven by Jason A. Zwart, 24, of Granite Falls, according to the Minnesota State Patrol.  
Zwart was reportedly transported to Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis for what were described as non-life-threatening injuries.
Jeseritz was transported to Granite Falls Municipal Hospital, also for non-life-threatening injuries.
Two from Litchfield injured in crash Tuesday morning
CEDAR MILLS - Two people from Litchfield suffered injuries in an accident around 7: 30 a.m. Tuesday along Minnesota Highway 22 east of Cedar Mills.
LC M. Johnson, 30, of Litchfield, was reportedly driving a Chrysler sedan southbound on Highway 22 when he lost control of his vehicle on the icy roadway. Johnson’s vehicle then collided with a Ford Explorer traveling northbound, driven by Patsy C. Ackerman, 57, of Litchfield, according to the Minnesota State Patrol.
Johnson and Ackerman were both transported Hutchinson Hospital for what were described as non-life-threatening injuries.
St. Joseph man injured in two-vehicleaccident near Spicer SPICER - A St. Joseph man was injured Tuesday afternoon when the rear driver’s side of his car was clipped by a truck, causing the car to lose control on the icy road, hit a tree in the divided highway’s median and end up in the opposite ditch north of Spicer.
Justin A. Johnson, 37, was northbound in a 2002 Saturn on state Highway 23, and his car spun out after being struck by the truck that was moving from the inside lane to the right lane, the State Patrol’s report says.  After striking the tree, Johnson’s vehicle crossed the southbound lanes and came to rest in the southbound ditch.
Johnson was transported to Rice Memorial Hospital in Willmar with what the Patrol described as non-life-threatening injuries.
David O. Dahl, 54, of Willmar, was driving northbound in a 2005 International truck when he changed lanes. Dahl was not injured, the Patrol said. He was wearing a seat belt. The truck had minor damage.
Johnson’s car was totaled. He was wearing a seat belt and his airbag deployed.
The State Patrol report says alcohol was not a factor.
The accident was reported at about 3:45 p.m. Tuesday. Assisting the State Patrol were the Kandiyohi County Sheriff’s Office, New London Fire and Ambulance and Willmar Ambulance.

Robb Jeffries (he/him) is the Night Editor for and The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. Robb can be reached at
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