WORTHINGTON - Just a week after area residents toughed out record-low temperatures for the area during the polar vortex, Mother Nature had another challenge up her sleeve.
Starting Wednesday and continuing into Thursday, communities across southwest Minnesota experienced both snowfall and windy conditions. While the National Weather Service’s in-depth process of confirming a blizzard had not been finalized Friday morning, the NWS could “unofficially confirm” the Worthington, Pipestone and Jackson areas experienced the trifecta of blizzard conditions - snow accumulations, blowing snow and whiteout conditions.
According to National Weather Service Meteorologist Alex Trellinger, the Worthington area received a total of six inches of snow over a 48-hour period and experienced a low of minus-13 degrees overnight Thursday. The wind chill was recorded at minis-37, which is cold enough to meet the NWS’ wind chill warning criteria, he added.
NWS correspondents in Windom reported 2.6 inches of snowfall over a 48-hour period. Lakefield, Trellinger added, reported .8 inches by 9 a.m. Thursday morning but had not reported by the NWS’ Friday morning deadline. That was the case for many of the other areas across southwest Minnesota, so the NWS could not report official snowfall totals for other communities in the Globe coverage area.
The winter weather caused many businesses and schools across the region to close, as poor visibility also kept plows and road crews off the roads.
At 2:42 p.m. Thursday, the Minnesota Department of Transportation issued a no-travel advisory on state and federal highways across much of south-central Minnesota, which included Jackson and Cottonwood counties.
District Seven MNDOT Public Information Officer Rebecca Arndt said the decision to pull the plows was made on the basis of everyone’s safety.
“It’s rarely the road surface that keeps s from being out on the roads,” Arndt said. “It’s a visibility thing. That makes it unsafe for (road crews) and everyone else.”
She said plows were back out at 4 a.m. Friday morning and worked to unplug drifts. That work was complicated, though, by stalled vehicles that became stuck overnight after not heeding the no-travel advisory.
“They have as many (stalled vehicles) as they do drifts,” Arndt said Friday morning. “Not only does the plow have to go out there, but they need towing as well and maybe other emergency services. That is the time-consuming and more difficult path than us just plowing two drifts.”
The MNDOT no travel advisory was lifted at 7 a.m. Friday morning.
In addition to MNDOT pulling plows, the Nobles County Public Works Department followed suit.
According to NCPW Director Steve Schnieder, county plows were out Thursday morning to check the roads, but there wasn’t much to plow. As conditions worsened throughout the afternoon, though, they heeded the same no-travel advisory.
“It got to the point it was blowing enough and starting to accumulate on the roads,” Schnieder said. “It was really unsafe for us to be out there, also. It’s also not a good idea to be running on the roads and giving people the false sense that the roads were open and it was OK to go to town. The place people needed to be was home.”
Schnieder said county plows were out on the roads by about 5:30 a.m. Friday morning to get caught up. He suspected crews would be out most of the day working to plow the roads and then blow back some of the areas that had drifted in.
According to Cottonwood County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Jim Jorgenson, there were no crashes across the county during the winter weather event.
It was a different story over in Jackson County. According to a daily log reported by the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office, on Thursday, the sheriff’s office responded to five motorist calls, which included stalled vehicles, vehicles in the ditch or jackknifed semis.
A citation was also issued to a motorist traveling more than 80 miles per hour on Interstate 90 during whiteout conditions - and while law enforcement was assisting a motorist and tow truck operator with removing a stalled vehicle from the shoulder.
Much like last week’s polar vortex event, schools across the entire southwest region of Minnesota and northwest Iowa were closed Thursday. Many also closed campus to students on Friday.
Many area businesses also followed suit. Government centers and county offices across Nobles, Jackson, Cottonwood, Murray and Pipestone counties were also closed Thursday.
Osceola County, Iowa and Rock County county offices remained open, although Rock County Court Administration and Southwest Health and Human Services were closed.
According to Trellinger, more snow is possible overnight and continuing Sunday. New snowfall accumulations were anticipated between one to two inches.
Temperatures were expected to rise, with a 22-degree high predicted for Monday. However, Trellinger said more snow was possible Monday morning and into the afternoon, and was expected to continue overnight into Tuesday. As of Friday, next week’s predicted snowfall event was too far out to predict snowfall amounts.