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Updated: Portions of U.S. Hwy. 71 and MN Highway 4 closed; no travel advised for much of the region

WILLMAR - Blizzard-like conditions have caused deteriorating travel conditions today in much of west central and southwest Minnesota as gusty northwest winds pummel the plains.

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This National Weather Service map shows the areas in red that are currently under a blizzard warning until 6 p.m. tonight.

WILLMAR – Blizzard-like conditions have caused deteriorating travel conditions today in much of west central and southwest Minnesota as gusty northwest winds pummel the plains.

Many area churches cancelled all or portions of their worship services today because of the weather and travel conditions and some businesses may not be open today.

The blizzard warning will be in effect until 6 p.m.

According to the National Weather Service winds could gust as high as 50 mph today, sending the wind chill to double-digits below zero.

Roads in the region are totally or partially covered with blowing and drifting snow, causing white-out conditions that has resulted in no-travel-advisories issued for areas around Willmar and highways further south.

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State Highway 4 between Hector and Cosmos is closed because of whiteout conditions, and U.S. Highway 71 between Olivia and state Highway 7 is also now closed. Also closed is state Highway 19 from Marshall to Redwood Falls.

Sandy Schlagel, public affairs coordinator with the Minnesota Department of Transportation District 8 office in Willmar, said these roads will remain closed until further notice and that motorists should plan accordingly.

When a road is closed it is illegal to travel in that area. Motorists can be fined up to $1,000 and/or sentenced to 90 days in jail. In addition, if travelers need to be rescued from a closed road, other expenses and penalties will apply.

MnDOT has also issued many no travel advisories throughout on most state highways in Lac Qui Parle, Chippewa, Kandiyohi, Yellow Medicine, Renville, Lincoln, Lyon, Redwood, Pipestone and Murray counties.

Portions of state highways in Meeker and McLeod counties are under no travel advisories.

A “no travel” advisory means that the roadway has deteriorated and/or visibility has been reduced to the point that it is very dangerous to travel and that there are reports of intermittent white out conditions.

Some weather conditions can be severe enough that road treatments, such as salt or sand, are not effective.

Down in southern MInnesota, Governor Tim Walz declared a peacetime state of emergency  late Saturday eveining, and ordered the Minnesota National Guard to provide assistance and emergency relief services for stranded motorists in Freeborn and Steele counties.

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Motorists are advised not to travel on these road segments until conditions improve, Schlagel said.

Schlagel advises travelers to consult www.511mn.org for specific state highway information.

Winds are expected to decrease to overnight but sub-zero temperatures are predicted to persist for the coming week, along with a chance of snow on Tuesday.

Carolyn Lange is a features writer at the West Central Tribune. She can be reached at clange@wctrib.com or 320-894-9750
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