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Treacherous Travel Conditions Prevail

Storm strands hundreds in emergency shelters; below zero temps predicted

February 22, 2014
By Journal staff writers and the Associated Press , The Journal

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - The snow globe has stopped in Minnesota, leaving more than a foot of snow in some places for residents to dig out before the below-zero temperatures move in next week.

In New Ulm, only 2.6 inches of snow fell, according to National Weather Observer Vic Roepke. However, winds of 25-35 mph and gusts of 45 mph clogged roadways and sent travelers who ventured into the storm to emergency shelters.

Renville County had the most with 134 people housed in five shelters. Cottonwood County opened the Business Arts and Recreation in Windom to 71 people. The Lake Crystal Seasons Community facility served as shelter for 20 people in Blue Earth County. Le Sueur County used the Le Center Emergency Operation Center and Cleveland Fire Hall to shelter 13 individuals.

Article Photos

Staff photo by Fritz Busch
A number of vehicles, including this car, were abandoned in the Highway 14 ditch and road shoulder between New Ulm and Sleepy Eye on Friday.

Both Steel County and Freeborn County used National Guard Armories as temporary shelters. No shelters were opened in Brown County.

Friday's daytime low dropped to 7 degrees, making this winter the 11th coldest winter on record, National Weather Service chief meteorologist Dan Luna in Chanhassen said. The average temperature has been 10.3 degrees. New Ulm's low temperatures was 8 degrees with a high of 20.

"Much of the population of this state has never seen a winter this cold," Luna said, and temperatures overnight Friday into Saturday will hover around zero. By Wednesday, the low will drop to about 15 below.

While the official snow total in the Twin Cities was 9.9 inches, northeastern Minnesota saw far more. The National Weather Service reported 14.5 inches in Alborn, 13 inches in Twig and 11 inches in Proctor.

The 55.5 inches total accumulation so far this year in the Twin Cities is 16.2 inches above normal, Luna said.

Since Dec. 1, New Ulm has received 38.5 inches of snow, according to Roepke. In December, 17.1 inches fell, and 11.2 inches fell in January. Thus far, 10.2 inches of snow had fallen.

The storm, which started Thursday night and stopped Friday, severely affected travel, so much so that the Minnesota State Patrol advised motorists throughout the state to stay off the roads.

"We're receiving reports from veteran troopers in several areas of the state of conditions that are as bad as they've seen in 25 years," said State Patrol Lt. Col. Matt Langer.

Schools closed Friday in the state's three largest districts: Anoka-Hennepin, Minneapolis and St. Paul.

All New Ulm schools closed, and area school districts also closed.

Highways were closed Thursday evening and into Friday morning. Highway 14 between New Ulm and Sleepy Eye opened shortly before noon.

Minnesota Department of Transportation's Mankato District reported 276 vehicles off the roadway, 17 property damage crashes, seven rollovers and two injury crashes from Thursday through 3:30 p.m. Friday. The MnDOT Marshall District reported 77 vehicles off the road, 23 property damage accidents, 11 rollovers and four injury mishaps for the same period.

MnDOT's 511 highway map of road condition on Friday night indicated that some highways continued to be difficult for drivers and some roadways had been upgraded to fair. Travelers were advised to call for road conditions before setting out on their journey.

The storm's high winds knocked out power to nearly 50,000 Xcel Energy customers in Minnesota, company spokesman Tom Hoen said.

By late Friday night, he said, 95 percent of those customers will have their power restored. The rest will see electricity restored by noon Saturday.

The Minnesota State Patrol closed southbound Interstate 35 from Owatonna to the Iowa border shortly after 1 a.m. Friday because of numerous accidents and stranded vehicles. Troopers dealt with scores of accidents, including a deadly one in Wabasha County, in which the driver of a van was killed after colliding with a semi on ice-covered Highway 42.

Though Interstate 94 remained open between Minneapolis and St. Paul, traffic was at a standstill during Friday morning rush hour, as drivers tried to gain traction on the ice hidden by the fresh snow.

The storm that started Thursday night brought the biggest one-time snowfall total of this long and brutal winter to the Twin Cities.

In south Minneapolis, nearly a foot of snow on side streets and alleys had not been plowed by late Friday morning, leaving many residents stranded.

 
 

 

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