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Blizzard threatens holiday travelers

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news Worthington, 56187
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Worthington Minnesota 300 11th Street / P.O. Box 639 56187

WORTHINGTON -- It's beginning to look a bit too much like Christmas.

Nearly three inches of fresh snow had fallen by noon Tuesday, creating a total of 10 inches on the ground in Worthington and causing many to question their holiday travel plans.

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A winter storm that began moving through the West Tuesday was expected to dump as much as 12 inches of snow on the Rockies before moving to the northwestern Plains and upper Midwest early today.

Light snowfall is forecasted this morning, but the storm is predicted to grow in intensity throughout the day, with ice and sleet accumulation expected in parts of Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa and Illinois.

"We've got a major winter storm that's going to be hitting the area (Wednesday) night ... and into Friday," said Todd Heitkamp, a meteorologist at the National Weather Center in Sioux Falls, S.D.

On Thursday, the storm will continue to pummel the Plains with blizzard conditions and heavy snow.

"Travel is going to be very difficult, to say the least, if not impossible Thursday as well as Christmas Day," he said. "Don't travel unless absolutely necessary."

A winter storm watch remains in effect from this afternoon to Friday afternoon for Lyon, Osceola, Dickinson and O'Brien counties in Iowa and Nobles, Jackson, Rock, Murray, Cottonwood and Pipestone counties in Minnesota. Heitkamp said that will soon be upgraded into a winter storm warning for the region.

Freezing drizzle, snow, sleet and winds are expected in Nobles County in the coming days. Partly sunny skies and highs near 15 are predicted for Saturday and Sunday.

"The snowfall will probably taper off Friday but we'll be dealing with winds into Saturday, so even on Saturday, travel is going to be difficult," Heitkamp said.

Those traveling south today are especially likely to hit the thick of the storm, with freezing rain expected in Iowa. If you must travel, "Call ahead to make sure people know what your routes are going to be," Heitkamp advised.

Weather.com offers these additional trips for safer travel:

l Get a complete tune-up of your vehicle before leaving, also checking the battery and antifreeze lines.

l Stow warm winter clothes and a shovel in your trunk.

l If you become stranded, do not leave your car unless you are sure exactly where you are, and how far it is to possible help.

Amy Smith, the Chamber of Commerce Executive Director in Sibley, Iowa, said she had plans to leave at noon Thursday to travel to Blair, Neb.

"We would stay overnight and on Christmas night we'd leave from Blair to travel on Christmas to Spencer, Iowa," she explained.

Will those plans still be happening?

"More than likely, no," said Smith. "I have one sister in town; I don't know if we'll still get together."

Because of the sudden severe weather, she hasn't made a decision on alternative plans yet.

The snow also caused late starts at several area schools. Schools in Adrian, Fulda, Slayton and Edgerton were delayed two hours on Tuesday. Many schools were already set to be closed today for the Christmas holiday.

Weather may have played a factor in several accidents reported Tuesday, including one head-on collision late Tuesday morning about two miles south of Worthington on Minnesota 60. Two Worthington Ambulances, Worthington Rescue, Bigelow Rescue and Sibley Ambulance were dispatched to the scene.

Three vehicles had been reported in ditches in Nobles County by 2 p.m.; and the Rushmore Rescue and Worthington Ambulance was dispatched to assist one male who had spent the night in his car near the Interstate 90 Rushmore exit on Tuesday morning.

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