ROCHESTER, Minn. (FOX 47) — Olmsted County Sheriff Kevin Torgerson is advising “emergency travel only” across the entire county because blizzard conditions are making the roads impassable.
“Plows have been pulled off roads due to extreme drifting with unpredictable white out conditions,” said Sheriff Torgerson. “It’s really bad out there. Weather conditions are not expected to improve until late tonight into early Monday morning.”
Winneshiek County Sheriff Dan Marx has issued a similar warning, and Mower County authorities are urging no travel inside the city of Austin.
MnDOT has closed I-90 west of Dexter because of whiteout driving conditions, along with I-35 from Owatonna to the Iowa border.
Freeborn County Sheriff Kurt Freitag said search and rescue operations went on through the night for stranded motorists, and dozens were rescued.
“We are using our tracked ATV which has seating for five occupants,” said Sheriff Freitag. “So far, the sheriff’s office has rescued 25 motorists and the national guard has rescued 30 motorists. The MN State patrol has rescued three motorists and MN DOT has dropped off one motorist at the armory.”
Governor Tim Walz activated the Minnesota Army National Guard Saturday evening to assist authorities in Freeborn and Steele Counties with motorist rescue operations. The governor also directed that the National Guard shelter stranded motorists at the armories in Albert Lea and Owatonna.
Sheriff Freitag said weather conditions are very dangerous and travel is not advised. Most highways in southeast Minnesota continue with a No Travel Advisory, which means conditions are poor to impassable.
“Motorists should stay off the highways while snowplows continue to work,” said Mike Dougherty of MnDOT.
Rochester Public Transit was unable to put buses on routes on Sunday morning and suspended service until further notice. Nick Lemmer of RPT was not certain when service might resume on the city’s seven Sunday routes.