MnDOT: Travel not advised in parts of southern Minnesota

February 25, 2019 04:32 PM

The Minnesota Department of Transportation is advising drivers in parts of southern Minnesota not to travel if it can be helped, given recent whiteout conditions.

Just before noon Monday, the Minnesota State Patrol reported Interstate 35 remained closed from Owatonna to the state's border "for the foreseeable future."

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Meanwhile, Interstate 90 was closed from westbound Highway 52. Highway 63 was open north of Racine. Two lanes, one in each direction, of Highway 14 were open.

"Secondary highways are still impassable," the state patrol reported.

"Our partners at MnDOT are working to plow roads so they can open to traffic, but abandoned vehicles will have to be removed so plows can get through," the state patrol went on to report. "Troopers and MnDOT officials are working to get stranded motorists, some of whom have been there 24 hours, out of the Straight River rest stop along I-35 south of Owatonna."

MnDOT reported Interstate 35 south of Interstate 90 in Albert Lea had reopened late Monday afternoon, as had the northbound lanes of I-35 from Albert Lea to Owatona. But I-35 South remained closed between Owatonna and Albert Lea due to snow drifts and icy conditions.

Many throughout southern Minnesota were told to shelter in place after blizzard-like conditions struck over the weekend.

A couple hundred ended up in emergency shelters after they were stranded out on roads.

RELATED: 'This is insane': Dozens of drivers abandon their vehicles during whiteout conditions

With 30 mph wind gusts and blowing snow that piled up, many drivers were trapped. Some had to wait more than six hours for a tow.

The National Guard worked to rescue roughly 90 drivers in Steele and Freeborn counties.

Meanwhile, state officials opened several shelters for those stranded to stay overnight.

Residents in Owatonna said heading out on the roads was just not worth it.

"We tried going that way and the drifts are just terrible; we didn't even go through it; they're taller than my truck, I'm not risking anything to get stuck," Sully Pederson, of Owatonna, said.

MnDOT officials reminded drivers who do become stranded to stay in their vehicles until help arrives.

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Alex Jokich & Rebecca Omastiak

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