National Guard help rescue stranded motorists

Olivia Armory shelters 18 people

Photo submitted by Renville County Sheriff’s Office A Small Unit Support Vehicle (SUSV) was used by the Minnesota National Guard to conduct two rescue missions Thursday night. Eight people were rescued from vehicles in Highway 71 by the SUSV team and brought to safety at the Olivia Armory.

RENVILLE COUNTY — A Minnesota National Guard unit conducted two rescue missions in blizzard conditions with a SUSV (small unit support vehicle) to rescue eight people from vehicles stranded on U.S. Highway 71 Thursday night.

With local shelter resources in the Olivia area used up, a request for assistance from the Minnesota National Guard was made Thursday. Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz declared a peacetime state of emergency and ordered the Olivia National Guard unit to provide assistance, rescuing stranded motorists with a specialized, tracked vehicle (SUSV).

A total of 18 stranded motorists were transported to the armory and provided overnight emergency shelter, according to a Renville County Sheriff’s Office news release.

After dark Thursday, travel became very difficult on highways and county roads across Renville County. Zero visibility and snow drifts forming on roads made travel often impossible, according to the sheriff’s office.

Throughout the evening and into the morning hours of Friday, Feb. 8, Renville County Sheriff’s Office dispatchers took multiple reports of vehicles off the road and stuck in drifts on the road, stranding drivers and other vehicle occupants.

Sub-zero temperatures and minus 20 to minus 30-degree wind chills made the situations extremely dangerous. Renville County Sheriff’s Office officers and several police departments in Renville County spent several hours trying to reach the stranded motorists and bring them to safety.

One stranded motorist suffered an ankle injury trying to walk away from a stranded vehicle in a snow-filled ditch, according to the sheriff’s office.

At 3:32 p.m. Thursday, a two-vehicle crash was reported on Highway 4, four miles north of Hector. A 2014 Mazda 3 driven by Michael S. Hoium, 31, Rochester, became stuck in a snow drift on a bridge. The vehicle was rear-ended by a large pick-up truck that left the scene.

Hoium was assessed with minor injuries at the scene by Hector Ambulance Service. He was not transported to a hospital. Hoium’s vehicle was demolished. The crash that happened in below-zero degree conditions, snow and near zero visibility, is under investigation.

At 3:54 p.m. Thursday, a three-vehicle, minor crash without injuries was reported on Highway 71, about one-half mile north of Highway 212. The crash was caused by near-zero visibility due to blowing snow. Vehicle damage was minor to moderate, according to the sheriff’s office.