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Blizzard stymies highway travel

Law enforcement reports numerous vehicles in ditches, rear-end crashes

MARSHALL — Blinding blizzard conditions on Wednesday sent vehicles into ditches and caused multiple rear-end collisions on southwest Minnesota roads and highways.

The Lyon County Sheriff’s Department reported on its Facebook page that one deputy suffered minor injuries when a vehicle rear-ended his squad car. The deputy was responding to vehicle in a ditch.

“Cars were getting rear-ended or going into the ditch because they (drivers) couldn’t see,” Lyon County Sheriff Eric Wallen told the Independent.

Messages from other area law enforcement agencies were similar.

“Please stay put. We have multiple vehicles stranded including sheriff’s office vehicles,” the Yellow Medicine County Sheriff’s Office posted on its Facebook page. “We are going to have difficulties getting to you if you choose to venture out. You may end up spending a long time in your vehicle waiting for help.”

Most areas in southwest Minnesota were expected to receive 2-4 inches of snow with winds gusting up to 60 mph. The National Weather Service issued the blizzard warning up to 9 p.m. Wednesday.

At mid-day, the Minnesota Department of Transportation closed Highway 19 from Marshall to Redwood Falls because of “zero visibility.” It was also closed in the morning from Marshall to the South Dakota border. MNDOT also reported the closure of Highway 68 Marshall to the South Dakota border, Highway 67 from US 75 to Granite Falls and Highway 23 Marshall to Granite Falls.

No travel advisories were issued a number of southwest Minnesota counties including Lincoln, Lyon, Murray, Pipestone and Yellow Medicine.

“This is the worst blizzard I’ve ever worked in in 12 years of EMS,” Chris DiSanto posted on the Wabasso Ambulance Association Facebook page. “Not able to travel any faster than 15 mph, and frequently stopping because we can’t see at all.”

The Associated Press reported that The storm was centered in southeastern Minnesota and was expected to track steadily toward Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and northern Michigan by Wednesday night. The heaviest snow band stretched from the Iron Range in northeastern Minnesota back toward Watertown in eastern South Dakota, Gust said.

The Minneapolis-St. Paul airport had experienced about 300 flight cancellations and 40 delays as of Wednesday afternoon, airport spokesman Patrick Hogan said.

The Sioux Falls Argus Leader reported that authorities in southeastern South Dakota were responding to a multiple-vehicle pileup on I-29 involving up to 20 cars and semis. Northbound lanes were being shut down at the exit to Dell Rapids, about 20 miles north of Sioux Falls.

Other motorists in eastern North and South Dakota opted to wait out the storm. The Coffee Cup Travel Plaza, one of the few stops on I-94 in northeastern South Dakota, was quiet on Wednesday morning, said Dani Zuhke, a worker at the store near the town of Summit.

“There’s blowing snow, low visibility and no travel advised,” she said. “It has been very slow. I don’t know that there are a lot of people out and about. There are times you can only see to the end of our parking lot.”

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