Minnesota National Guard assists those stranded in western Minnesota

February 08, 2019 06:34 PM

Dangerous conditions in western Minnesota Thursday prompted action to help those stranded.

Gov. Tim Walz declared a peacetime state of emergency Thursday night, ordering the Minnesota National Guard to provide assistance and offer emergency relief services for stranded motorists in Renville County.


Renville County Sheriff Scott Hable told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS his office began getting 911 calls from drivers after dark.

"Our dispatchers would use GPS with their cell phones and plot where they thought they would be and then send cars out to see if they could find them," Hable said.

But whiteout conditions and zero visibility made it difficult for his deputies to respond to emergency calls from motorists.

"There were points last night where our deputies were stuck," Hable said. 

The National Guard assisted in search-and-rescue operations and opened the Olivia Armory as a shelter.

Staff Sgt. Jason Hirschman drove the guard's small unit support vehicle, or SUSV throughout the night. The tread tires allowed the vehicle to get to people who were stranded.

"It was bad," Hirschman said, recalling the conditions overnight. "Visability was poor. Roads were completely covered. It was cold."

Thursday marked the first time Gov. Tim Walz declared a Peacetime Emergency.  However, such declarations were frequently used by the two governors who proceeded him.

The Minnesota Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management said Friday that the shelter was closing, but that 18 people had slept there.

It said eight people were rescued from roads in the area.

Roads had remained closed in many parts of western Minnesota Friday morning due to the significant snowfall and blowing snow.

More from KSTP.com:

Snowstorm leaves snarled traffic, cancellations in wake

Cleanup begins after storm passes through state

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Rebecca Omastiak

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