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MnDOT, State Patrol warn of driving on closed roads, urge caution on open ones

The remnants of a severe winter storm continued to cause closed and icy roads Saturday afternoon. Motorists were urged to check 511mn.org, use caution, slow down and increase following distances.

The view at 8:45 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 24, 2022, from a Minnesota Department of Transportation snowplow working on U.S. Highway 71 between Olivia and the junction with state Highway 7.
The view at 8:45 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 24, 2022, from a Minnesota Department of Transportation snowplow working on U.S. Highway 71 between Olivia and the junction with state Highway 7.
Contributed / Minnesota Department of Transportation
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WILLMAR — Many roads in southwestern Minnesota opened Saturday morning, but some remained closed.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation continued to ask motorists to continue to avoid roads marked as closed or No Travel Advised.

The Minnesota State Patrol said in a Facebook post at noon that roads around the state are covered in black ice and visibility is limited by blowing snow on roads that are considered to be open.

Conditions vary throughout the area, according to a MnDOT news release, and drivers are asked to check 511mn.org before heading out on the roads.

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A portion of a road may seem to be open but hazardous conditions exist somewhere on that road, whether it's blocked by drifts or stranded cars, according to the release. In some areas, stranded vehicles are delaying the work, as plows have to wait for the cars to be towed before clearing the road.

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Those who drive down closed roads are likely to be stranded themselves and further complicate the operation to clear the roads, the release said.

It is illegal to travel on a closed road and if travelers require rescuing, they are liable for all related rescue costs.

"Plows are doing the best they can and we're getting blowers out to sites that are in really tough shape," MnDOT said in a Facebook post Saturday morning.

The post concluded with, "Please show grace to one another, and to the first responders and plow operators working in these conditions."

In early afternoon, roads in the Willmar area were either still closed or posted with the No Travel Advised warning.

Roads in the Olivia, Redwood Falls and Marshall areas were also still closed.

The Minnesota State Patrol reported at noon Saturday that the state had 180 crashes and 97 vehicles off the road in just four hours Saturday morning.

"None of these crashes have been fatal but 17 people have been injured," the Patrol said in its post on Facebook. "Not a great way to spend a holiday."

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The advice from the State Patrol — slow down, increase your following distance, buckle up and give yourself extra time.

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In 42 years in the newspaper industry, Linda Vanderwerf has worked at several daily newspapers in Minnesota, including the Mesabi Daily News, now called the Mesabi Tribune in Virginia. Previously, she worked for the Las Cruces Sun-News in New Mexico and the Rapid City Journal in the Black Hills of South Dakota. She has been a reporter at the West Central Tribune for nearly 27 years.

Vanderwerf can be reached at email: lvanderwerf@wctrib.com or phone 320-214-4340
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