Blizzard snarls travel
WORTHINGTON — Given conditions around the region Thursday morning, many were likely questioning whether or not an expected blizzard would eventually blow through the region.
Residents didn’t have to wonder long.
Snow struck the Worthington area around 11:30 a.m., and winds increased throughout the day Thursday, said Brad Adams, meteorologist at the National Weather Service (NWS) in Sioux Falls, S.D. Adams said the blizzard conditions would remain until this morning and grow weaker as the day goes on.
The NWS issued a blizzard warning Wednesday afternoon for southeast South Dakota, southwest Minnesota and northwest Iowa until midnight Thursday. A wind chill advisory was also issued effective from midnight Thursday until 10 a.m. today.
“We did have a round of high winds at about 6 a.m. Thursday and while they died down for part of the morning, we did see snow moving in the area Thursday afternoon,” Adams said. “Then the wind greatly increased late afternoon and throughout Thursday evening.”
An inch to two inches of snow was expected to accumulate throughout Thursday night, but the wind that hit Thursday afternoon is what caused the dangerous white-out conditions. While temperatures were in the neighborhood of 30 degrees early Thursday morning, they had dropped to 6 above as of 5:15 p.m., with a wind chill of minus-19.
Whiteout conditions were so severe the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) and the Minnesota State Patrol closed Interstate 90 from the South Dakota border to Luverne, as well as I-90 westbound from Sioux Falls to Salem, S.D., at 1:30 p.m. Thursday due to the conditions and a large number of crashes.
“Most of the time when we close part of an interstate like that it’s a joint decision between MnDOT and the Minnesota State Patrol, and today is a perfect example of that,” MDOT Public Information Officer Rebecca Arndt said. “We normally close the roads due to visibility and number of crashes, as was the case Thursday. Once in a while we’ll close roads because of physical piles of snow that block the interstate, but it’s mostly due to visibility and crashes.”
A 22-car pileup was the cause of the I-90 westbound from Sioux Falls to Salem, S.D., closing, with severe whiteout conditions seen in the area at the time, according to NWS. As of late Thursday, no serious injuries had been reported.
Worthington’s District 518 closed school Thursday, and according to District Accounting Supervisor Pat Morphew, the school will make up the day.
“As far as I know it will be added at the end of the year, but that is something that the school board will need to decide and vote on because it’s amending our calendar,” Morphew said.
Many other area schools also called off classes Thursday.
Even though the blizzard conditions hit the local area Thursday, today is expected to be much calmer in the afternoon.
“Wind chill temps could be as low as minus-20 in the morning and there is a wind chill advisory, but other than it being cold it’s supposed to be nice and sunny as the day goes on,” Adams said.