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Forum News Service, Published February 21 2014

Dayton calls out National Guard amid snowstorm

With more than a foot of fresh snow on the ground in some areas, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton on Friday issued an emergency order directing the Minnesota National Guard to assist stranded motorists.

Road conditions prompted all State Patrol command staff to suspend their daily duties and provide assistance on state highways.

“We’re receiving reports from veteran troopers in several areas of the state of conditions that are as bad as they’ve seen in 25 years,” said State Patrol Lt. Col. Matt Langer. “We need motorists to avoid traveling unless it’s absolutely necessary. It is simply too dangerous right now and MnDOT needs room to clear the roads of snow and ice.”

National Guard units were doing search and rescue of stranded motorists in Freeborn County, a news release from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety said.

The Meeker County Sheriff’s Department in central Minnesota reported nearly 40 vehicles abandoned on roads Thursday night and early Friday.

The State Patrol expects road conditions to remain treacherous for the next several days.

Up to 18 inches fell overnight in parts of northwestern Wisconsin and northeast Minnesota, with 14 inches officially in Duluth.

At least 290 people spent time in shelters across eight Minnesota counties Thursday night, according to the Department of Public Safety.

Counties with shelters include Steele, Freeborn, Renville, Le Sueur, Blue Earth, Cottonwood, McCloud and Nicollet.

The traffic problems included a fatal crash in Wabasha County. The driver of a van was killed in a collision with a semi-truck on Minnesota Highway 42.

Parts of southern Minnesota, including the Twin Cities, received 6 to 10 inches of snow and strong winds, causing blizzard-like conditions in open areas. Schools closed across the region.

The storm crippled traffic and knocked out power in the Twin Cities.

About 14,000 Xcel Energy customers were without power in the metro area early Friday morning. Freezing rain and heavy, wet snow pulled down power lines across the entire grid, according to Xcel officials.

In rural areas, high winds drifted over roads and driveways.

Tucker Lorentz and his brothers tried to open up their driveway about five miles southwest of Ellsworth in northwest Wisconsin.

Lorentz said the four-wheeler being used as a plow got stuck repeatedly Friday as southwest winds gusting to 30 mph drifted shut what they’d managed to push open.

In Duluth, Minn., Dan Kolden had the help of a small John Deere garden tractor with a snowblower attachment to clear snow that heaped upon an already snowy winter.

Duluth has seen about 85 inches of snow this winter.

“It’s better than a shovel. But there’s nowhere for the snow to go. I had to give up on Second Street; the piles are too high,” Kolden said. “It’s a work in progress.”

The St. Paul Pioneer Press, a media partner with Forum News Service, contributed to this report.