Winter storm to hit west central Minnesota hard through Thursday


— The promised lull in the three-day "historic" Presidents Week storm arrived Wednesday morning, but snow was falling again by mid-afternoon.

Weather forecasters and public safety officials throughout the day Wednesday were reminding Minnesotans to take seriously the second round of the winter storm.

Round 2 was expected to track northward over Minnesota through Wednesday evening and persist into Thursday afternoon, according to the National Weather Service — Twin Cities. Driving conditions are expected to become dangerous Wednesday evening and remain so overnight into Thursday.

"Exercise common sense and think twice if you need to drive," said State Patrol Col. Matt Langer in a Wednesday afternoon tweet.

The National Weather Service — Twin Cities office in a tweet early Wednesday morning said the snowfall totals during the first round of the storm were slightly less than forecast but also cautioned that conditions would worsen later in the day Wednesday and blizzard and winter storm warnings remained in effect.

Snowfall totals in Willmar and surrounding areas so far were mostly in the 5-inch range as of 1:15 p.m. Wednesday, according to observer reports shared with the National Weather Service:

* Willmar, 5 inches

* Benson, 4.6 inches

* Bird Island, 5.5 inches

* Dawson, 5 inches inches

* Montevideo, 3.5 inches

* Paynesville, 4.3 inches

Another 8 to 12 inches was forecast by Thursday in the region under the blizzard warning. The impacted region is south of Interstate 94 and west of Interstate 35. The weather service said an additional 8 to 12 inches of snow would, in fact, be widespread across central and southern Minnesota, with locally higher amounts of 15 inches expected.

The heavy snow will combine with northeast wind gusts of 35 to 45 mph, with the highest wind speeds over western and southern Minnesota. This is expected to lead to significant blowing and drifting snow with whiteout conditions in open areas overnight and into Thursday. Some drifts are expected to be several feet deep, making travel nearly impossible.

Snowplow crews statewide were clearing roads Wednesday morning and afternoon ahead of the next round of snow.

With Willmar and west central Minnesota under a blizzard warning, Minnesota's Homeland Security and Emergency Management division reminded people that a winter survival kit would be essential for anyone who must travel.

As of 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, the Minnesota State Patrol was reporting 136 crashes — 12 with injury, one serious in Eagan and zero fatals — and 60 vehicle spin-outs.

As of 2 p.m. Wednesday, Interstate 90 west of Worthington to the South Dakota border and other roads in southwest Minnesota were closed due to blizzard conditions. Blowing and drifting snow significantly reduced visibility in many areas.

As of Wednesday morning, the Minnesota Department of Transportation was recommending no travel on state highways in Lincoln, Lyon, Nobles Redwood, Rock, Pipestone and Murray counties.

On Tuesday, Gov. Tim Walz issued emergency orders to MnDOT, the Minnesota National Guard, and Minnesota State Patrol to be prepared for appropriate action during the approaching storm. State and law enforcement officials are encouraging people to stay safe at home.

"The fewer people on the roads, the better," the State Patrol tweeted.