REGIONAL — Friday's foreboding forecast called for serious amounts of wind and snow throughout southwest Minnesota and northwest Iowa, prompting area school districts to cancel classes and the Worthington Winterfest committee to delay its annual celebration until Feb. 1.
Although actual snowfall totals were lower than anticipated, the average of 6.6 inches regionally broke a 1996 record for Jan. 17 of 3.2 inches, according to the National Weather Service out of Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Edgerton received 7.7 inches of snow, Jackson 7.2 and Worthington 6. The Jan. 17 average is 0.3 inches.
Snow was done accumulating Saturday morning, but wind averaging 35 to 45 miles per hour blew ground blizzards across much of the region.
The combination of snow, ice and wind created dangerous road conditions Friday and Saturday. More than a dozen crashes occurred in Worthington through the weekend and into Monday as a result of slippery roadways.
Sunday morning, a Minnesota State Patrol officer discovered a vehicle in a ditch along Minnesota 23, just south of Jasper, that had been almost entirely buried by snow. The officer "dug it out and towed it himself," said District 2300 Sgt. Troy Christianson.
Fortunately, the vehicle was unoccupied. Christianson said that the owner has not yet been identified.
County sheriff's offices across the region responded to requests for aid from many drivers and bystanders over the weekend.
Nobles County Chief Deputy Chris Dybevick said NCSO deputies answered a total of 49 weather-related calls — "over and above our normal call load," he explained.
In addition to normal county patrolling, deputies also assisted along Interstate 90, as the closest state patrol office is an hour away in Marshall.
When stranded motorists were uninjured, Dybevick said, "we put them in our squad cars and took them someplace warm." Deputies also helped drivers secure towing services when needed, he added.
"It's really not a fun time of year for our guys," he said, noting that in such hazardous conditions, it is just as dangerous for deputies to rescue people as it is for the people who got into accidents.
Despite the exponential number of crashes, there were few injuries and zero fatalities from the winter storm.