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Winter hits hard

Staff photo by Clay Schuldt Pedestrians in downtown New Ulm Wednesday were shrouded in the snow that was blown about by strong winds. The conditions only got worse throughout the day.

NEW ULM — Those dreaming of a white Christmas got their holiday wish Wednesday – an then some!

A harsh snowstorm hit south central Minnesota Wednesday. The blizzard was predicted to hit in the early morning but did not hit with full force until the noon hour.

Wednesday’s storm was a complete reversal from the previous day’s balmy temps. Tuesday, temperatures reached 51 degrees, setting a record for the highest temperature recorded on Dec. 22 in New Ulm. Within 24 hours temperatures would drop by 40 degrees and bring the snow that had been absent for most of December.

The National Weather Service reported strong winds of 35 to 40 mph over western Minnesota causing drifting and blowing snow creating whiteout conditions. Visibility in New Ulm was limited and partially covered roads made travel difficult.

Within the first few hours, Brown County Sheriff’s deputies and Minnesota State troopers responded to multiple vehicles sliding off roads. The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) website reported that all roads outside of New Ulm were completely covered with snow and A jackknifed semi-trailer was reported at 2:11 p.m. just outside of Courtland between 491st Avenue and 481 Avenue.

By 2 p.m. MnDOT advised against travel west of Sleepy Eye. By 3:30 p.m. Highway, 14 west of Sleepy Eye was closed as were most roads to the west including Minnesota 4. Brown County’s rural snow plows were pulled off the road because of the driving conditions. Some rural power lines were reported blown down near Sleepy Eye.

With the roads closed west and south, many holiday travelers were stranded in New Ulm looking for a room. Staff at the New Ulm Best Western Plus confirmed this was one of the busiest days in recent weeks.

The roads will remain closed until conditions improve.

The blizzard warning remains in effect through 6 a.m. Thursday. Between 7 and 11 inches of snow is predicted by Christmas Eve morning.

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