WORTHINGTON — At 5 a.m. Friday, the wind around Nobles County was roaring and blowing around newly fallen snow, making traveling conditions perilous to say the least.
For Stephen Schnieder, the county’s longtime public works director, it didn’t make much sense then — or later in the morning, for that matter — to send out plows to clear roads.
“I quite frankly haven’t even tried to get into town,” Schnieder said by phone at about 10 a.m. “Right now, from a safety standpoint, we haven’t sent our plows out yet. We plan to wait until visibility improves.”
Schnieder indicated that a blizzard warning was in effect until 6 p.m. Friday, though that didn’t necessarily mean the county plows would stay off the roads for that long. Weather conditions still made for no-travel advisories, however, well into Friday afternoon, and Schnieder urged caution.
“The more people see things move around, sometimes that gives a bad impression,” he said.
“The guys were getting up and getting ready to drive to come in (early Friday morning) … but it wasn’t a safe thing to do. I just made a call and said, ‘don’t even try to come in.’”
All Nobles County offices were closed Friday as a result of the latest blast of winter weather, which came a day after high temperatures around the region reached the upper 40s. Worthington schools had no in-school classes, though students were engaged in the now-familiar routine of distance learning.
Schnieder said the county was available for emergency plowing for events such as rescues, but noted that he hadn’t received any such calls as of yet. Meanwhile, Heath Mitchell, manager at Pulver Towing in Worthington, said his business had been steady since around 6 p.m. Thursday.
“We had a few semis in the ditch, a couple of jackknifes … we actually had a charter bus with 30 passengers that went into a ditch,” Mitchell said.
The bus, he explained, skidded off Interstate 90 near milepost 40 at approximately 9 p.m. Fortunately, there were no injuries in the mishap.
“We ended up having two big trucks out there to get that (bus) back on the road,” Mitchell said. “The bus drove away, and everyone was happy and good to go.”
While law enforcement incident reports from Nobles County indicated numerous crashes and vehicles in ditches as a result of the Thursday/Friday blizzard, Mitchell indicated there were even more accidents.
“We’ve been getting about three to five calls an hour,” he said. “We’ve got me, my wife and three other guys. We’ve got to make quite a few of them sit for a while, but we keep chipping away at them.”
Mitchell noted that between being busy with multiple jobs and facing the nasty weather themselves, patience is a virtue. The tow trucks aren’t “miracle workers,” he said.
Additionally, the Nobles County community of Rushmore was forced to cope with a power outage that City Clerk-Treasurer Coleen Gruis noted was the result of a jump wire issue on a transformer. She believed that power may have been lost at about 5:30 a.m. Friday, and ultimately restored by about 9:30 a.m.
A winter weather advisory was issued Friday afternoon until midnight Saturday, with continued windy conditions and a forecast of up to an inch of additional snow. There hadn’t been a lot of new moisture as of 7 a.m. Friday in Worthington, as just .06 inches of precipitation was recorded. Many area municipalities had no data reported Friday morning on the National Weather Service website, though Sioux Falls, South Dakota did measure .13 inches of precipitation and 1.7 inches of snow.
That mix of snow and wind, however, led the Minnesota Department of Transportation to close multiple roads at 10 p.m. Thursday across southwest Minnesota. Closures include I-90 from the South Dakota border to Blue Earth and were coordinated with closures in South Dakota. State highway closures included roads in Cottonwood, Jackson, Nobles and Rock counties.
MnDOT announced Friday morning that all highways in southwest Minnesota were open as of 10 a.m., but I-90 westbound from Worthington to Adrian and Minnesota 23 north of I-90 were re-closed at approximately 12:30 p.m. “due to numerous crashes.” Those roads were reopened as of 2:45 p.m., MnDOT added.
At around 3 p.m. Friday, Worthington was reporting north winds of 37 mph gusting to 49 mph, according to the NWS, with visibility of quarter-mile. That marked a tie for the least amount of visibility thus far in the storm, according to hourly readings.
This weekend’s weather should be far less tumultuous. Highs between 25 and 30 degrees are expected for the next few days, and a high of 39 is currently forecast for Wednesday. The next decent chance for moisture is next Saturday, the 23rd, when 1 to 3 inches of snow is currently in the works.