A second day of closures
WORTHINGTON -- Area residents woke up to bright sunshine Friday, but also another round of school and business closings in the wake of the latest winter storm.
Prompted by bitterly cold temperatures and continued road closings, schools kept their doors shut for a second day and many industries cancelled at least the early shift to enable their workers to get there safely.
By noon, the Minnesota Department of Transportation reopened all the area highways, including Interstate 90, U.S. 59 and Minnesota 60. Truckers, anxious to get back to work, were lined up near the highway entry points, ready to put their foot on the gas once the travel ban was lifted. Most major highway conditions were reported as fair by late Friday afternoon.
The reopening of the highways signaled the return to somewhat normal for local law enforcement, according to Nobles County Sheriff Kent Wilkening.
"We're still working on getting the vehicles out that were in the ditch," he said Friday afternoon. "We're cleaning up loose ends, making sure the ones that are in the ditch stuck someplace are getting pulled out so they're not a hazard. ... Some were stranded dead center in the middle of the road and the plows had to go around them."
Overall, Wilkening was pleased with how law enforcement operations continued during the storm and how residents heeded the warnings. The high winds, drifting and reduced visibility were the worst he could remember in quite a while -- "probably since '96 or '97," he said.
There were no major emergencies or life-threatening situations of which Wilkening was yet aware. A county plow did have to be dispatched to the Brewster area early Friday morning to assist a pregnant woman who needed a doctor's attention.
Windom Area Hospital contacted the Worthington Police Department at 6:59 a.m. Friday, requesting assistance with emergency transport of a patient to Sioux Falls, S.D. The main runway at Worthington Municipal Airport was opened at 7:45 a.m., and the patient was transported via fixed-wing aircraft from Windom to the Worthington airport, then was transferred to a waiting aircraft from a Sioux Falls hospital. No other information about the patient's condition was available.
Sheriff's deputies worked their normal shifts throughout the storm, although extra dispatchers were needed to answer the many calls.
"The biggest thing was we had a lot of calls to dispatch about when the roads were going to be open," Wilkening said. "They were kept busy. People were not real happy that the roads were closed."
During such winter weather scenarios, people should dial 511 or go to www.511mn.org to get the latest information about road conditions. Such technology advances are helpful in keeping people updated and out of harm's way -- and freeing up law enforcement telephone lines -- when the weather turns nasty.
"Our communication and forward warning is a lot better than it used to be," Wilkening credited.
Area residents will have to endure one more day of bitterly cold temperatures before the weather takes a turn for the better. The high is only anticipated to be zero to 5 above today, but after that the temperature begins to climb throughout next week. A high around 30 is forecast by Wednesday, and there is just a slight chance of light snow in the meantime.