On Sunday afternoon, the Minnesota Department of Transportation closed three major highways in west central Minnesota over the whiteout conditions caused by the blowing snow.
By Sunday night, both t he Minnesota State Patrol and MnDOT advised no travel in southern and western Minnesota. All highways in the south central and southwestern portion of the state are closed.
In Stearns County, Sheriff John Sanner is recommending no travel because of deep snow drifts, high winds and blowing snow creating whiteout conditions. The following highways have been closed in some areas due to drifts that are 5-6 feet deep:
- Highway 15
- Highway 4
- Highway 71
The major closures began in western Minnesota, where the following highways were officially closed to traffic at 4 p.m.:
- Interstate 94 from Moorhead to Alexandria
- Highway 10 from Moorhead to Detroit Lakes
- Highway 210 from Breckenridge to Fergus Falls
All closed roads will remain so until further notice, officials said in a release. Although plows were dispatched to the area, they were pulled from the roadway after dark due to low visibility.
Any motorist found traveling on a closed road may be fined up to $1,000 and could also be sentenced to up to 90 days in jail. Anyone requiring rescue could also face additional expenses and penalties, and officials warn that the conditions will delay emergency response for anyone who becomes stranded.
Motorists are advised not to travel southern and western Minnesota until conditions improve and the roads are reopened. By Sunday night, MnDOT officials also extended the no travel advisory to the Twin Cities metro area.
SHELTERS OPEN FOR TRAVELERS
Officials with the Department of Public Safety Homeland Security and Emergency Management are working with local officials to open shelters in several Minnesota cities. Gov. Mark Dayton has authorized the use of National Guard armories in both Albert Lea and Olivia, Minn.
Open shelters can be found in the following cities:
- Albert Lea
- Sacred Heart
By 9:30 p.m., the Red Cross in Windom had 63 people seeking shelter at the Business Arts & Recreation Center -- including 37 members of a Sioux Falls-area hockey team heading home from a weekend tournament in the Twin Cities. A total of 60 cots were set up for stranded motorists there.
Additional information on road conditions and closures can be found online at www.511mn.org or by calling 511.