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Brian Korthals/Daily Globe Motorists work to shovel out their stuck vehicles Sunday morning on Oxford Street in Worthington. For more photos from the blizzard, see page A8.

Blizzard bombards region

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WORTHINGTON -- And to think more than a week remains until the official first day of winter.

This just in: The calendar means nothing. Mother Nature, in emphatic fashion, let the region know just that over the weekend.

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With a total of 10 inches of snowfall in Worthington on Saturday, not to mention winds gusting well in excess of 50 mph throughout the day into the wee hours of Sunday morning, the weather outside was frightful, indeed. Blizzard conditions made it difficult for local residents to see much at all in front of them -- and that was within city limits, never mind out in rural areas, where blowing snow consistently wreaks havoc with visibility.

Businesses throughout their region shut their doors Saturday, and traveling was virtually impossible in and around communities throughout the area. Interstate 90 from Albert Lea westward into South Dakota was closed Saturday and didn't reopen until 2:30 p.m. Sunday, with driving advisories still in effect.

Worthington was by no means alone with its plentiful amounts of blowing white powder. Other area snowfall totals, provided by the National Weather Service: Currie, 8 inches; Jeffers, 8 inches; Lakefield, 7 inches; Luverne, 6½ inches; Ocheyedan, Iowa, 9 inches; Pipestone, 6 inches; Rock Rapids, Iowa, 8 inches; and Spirit Lake, Iowa, 7 inches. Sioux Falls recorded 7.6 inches of snow, according to the NWS.

The blowing and drifting snow made road-clearing efforts challenging at times, but Worthington Director of Public Works Jim Laffrenzen said Sunday afternoon that the work was going smoothly.

"We started calling everyone at 1, and we were all out on the street by 2 or 2:30, I guess," said Laffrenzen of how his crew got started very early Sunday. "We're still at it; hopefully by 5 (p.m. Sunday) we'll be wrapped up.

"The biggest problem we've had is cars stuck in the snow," he added. "On Oxford Street, I think they towed 20 cars in a one-block area. There were also some streets in outlying areas that were totally blocked. The only way we could get to them was with a snowblower... and then a V-plow."

Laffrenzen said he expected city plows back on the streets by 3 a.m. this morning to start clearing snow from the middle of the downtown area's streets.

"We had a lot of people blowing their snow back on the street," Laffrenzen said. "Basically, we're going to have to plow the whole town out again tomorrow."

The Rev. Richard Ricker, pastor at Worthington's First Lutheran Church, could attest to the impassable streets. He said he consulted with Laffrenzen before opting to cancel the 8 a.m., and later the 10 a.m., services Sunday.

"I'm happy we did," Ricker said. "Lo and behold I looked out the window this morning, and until 10 or 10:30 I couldn't have gotten out to go to church if I wanted to."

Unsurprisingly, the nasty weather led to a host of accidents around the region, and plenty of towing needs. Diana Nelson of Mark's Towing & Repair said her business had its line ringing frequently.

"It's been very busy the last couple of days," she said, adding that the business had been backed up due to the number of requests -- approximately 75 to 100 since Saturday morning.

"There have been times like this -- like last year -- but this has been a lot, that's for sure," Nelson said. "There haven't been very many times like this."

Several accidents and stuck vehicles were reported in Worthington and Nobles County (see today's Data report), and while the Minnesota State Patrol hadn't posted any accident reports on its website as of early Sunday evening, one traveler said driving along Minnesota 60 was perilous at best.

"It's been a skating rink since Butterfield," reported Daily Globe features editor Beth Rickers Namanny, who was returning to Worthington Sunday afternoon after a weekend in Minneapolis. "We've been going 15 mph for big stretches. We're going four-wheel drive and we're spinning wheels.

"Seriously, I've never seen it this bad on a state highway; and it's not going to be good either tomorrow (Monday) morning," she continued, noting there was "6-foot drifts on either side of us."

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Ryan McGaughey
I first joined the Daily Globe in April 2001 as sports editor. I later became the news editor in November 2002, and the managing editor in August 2006. I'm originally from New York State, and am married with two children.
(507) 376-7320
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