West central Minnesota begins digging out, but travel remains difficult

After Winter Storm Olive dumped more than a foot of snow on west central Minnesota communities, residents began digging out from under the drifts on Thursday. Many state and county roadways remained drifted shut throughout Thursday, but plows were out and about getting them passable.

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A grader pushes snow away from the edge of North Shore Drive in Spicer on Thursday, Feb. 23, 2023.
Macy Moore / West Central Tribune

Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect changing travel advisories.

WILLMAR — West central Minnesotans slowly began to shovel or blow out of their driveway snowdrifts Thursday morning, while a multitude of snowplow drivers began the heavy lift of clearing state, county, city and private roadways and streets across the region.

Travel remained difficult Thursday across much of west central and southwest Minnesota.

It will take a couple days to fully clear all the snowfall across most of west central Minnesota, which ranged from 15 to 20 inches, according to National Weather Service reports.

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Wind blows the light, powdery snow from the shovel of Isaac Dowdy as he clears the sidewalk in front of his apartment complex along Glacial Ridge Trail in Spicer the morning of Thursday, Feb. 23, 2023.
Macy Moore / West Central Tribune

The weather brought wind chill advisories as the temperatures turn colder going into Thursday evening, with wind chills overnight dropping between 25 and 35 degrees below zero over much of western, central and southern Minnesota, according to the weather service.


Many schools, county, city offices and businesses were shut down Thursday. Many cities and towns were declaring snow emergencies, with Willmar declaring a snow emergency for the downtown business district starting at 10 p.m. Thursday.

As of 6:30 p.m. Thursday, the Minnesota Department of Transportation has lifted all remaining no travel advisories on state highways in southwest Minnesota, including roads in Chippewa, Kandiyohi, Lac qui Parle, Meeker, Redwood, Pipestone, and Yellow Medicine counties.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation upgraded U.S. Highway 14 and all state highways south of Highway 14 from road closed to travel not advised in Lincoln, Lyon, Murray, Pipestone and Redwood counties due to high winds and drifting snow.

No travel advised means that the roadway has deteriorated and/or visibility has been reduced to the point that it is very dangerous to travel; there are reports of whiteout conditions; and some weather conditions can be severe enough that road treatments are not effective, and conditions can become life-threatening for stranded travelers.

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Ron Lee clears a sidewalk in downtown Spicer following heavy snow and wind that brought blizzard conditions to the region overnight on Thursday, Feb. 23, 2023.
Macy Moore / West Central Tribune

Gov. Tim Walz thanked Minnesota's snowplow drivers, the State Patrol, the National Guard and emergency responders across the state for working tirelessly to provide aid to Minnesotans and for "making sure our roads and highways are as safe as possible."

Throughout the day, the Minnesota State Patrol urged drivers to use caution if they decided to drive, recommending staying at least 10 car lengths behind snowplows.

In the past three days, the State Patrol responded to 3,182 calls to 911, and 100% of the calls were answered within 20 seconds. Minnesota State Patrol troopers have also responded to dozens of crashes and spinouts.

Interstate 90 reopened Thursday afternoon between Worthington and the South Dakota border after Minnesota Department of Transportation snowplows went through, but it remains completely snow-covered. Interstate 29 also reopened about 3:30 p.m. Thursday from Watertown, South Dakota, to the North Dakota border.


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A Minnesota Department of Transportation snow plow photo Thursday along Interstate 90 between Adrian and Worthington.
A Minnesota Department of Transportation snowplow photo Thursday, Feb. 23, 2023, along Interstate 90 between Adrian and Worthington.
Contributed / Minnesota Department of Transportation

Kelly Boldan has been editor of West Central Tribune and in Willmar, Minnesota, since October 2001. He joined Forum Communications Co. in November 1998 as editor of the Bemidji (Minn.) Pioneer.
Boldan can be reached via email: or telephone: 320-214-4331.
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