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Latest snowfall precedes difficult driving, crashes

A snowplow operated by Holmvig Excavating plows Gilbert Lake Road Tuesday as heavy snow falls in central Minnesota. Steve Kohls/ Brainerd Dispatch

Slippery roads, steady snowfall and strong wind created such difficult driving conditions, the state transportation department advised no unnecessary travel in the region Tuesday.

There were numerous reports of vehicles off the road Tuesday and several crashes with injuries, including one reported at 6:36 p.m. on Highway 210 near County Road 1 in Pillager. As of Tuesday night, the Minnesota State Patrol reported the extent of injuries had not been determined. A fatality was confirmed south of Royalton. The state patrol reported a 30-year-old man was killed about 11:30 a.m. Tuesday when the truck he was driving rear-ended a Minnesota Department of Transportation snowplow.

Falling snow limited visibility Tuesday morning. Even within Brainerd, the landscape and vehicles just down the street were lost to whiteout conditions. By the afternoon, blowing snow assisted in creating glare ice conditions on area highways. The morning's mild temperatures during the heaviest snowfall gave way to biting cold later in the day as the skies cleared and the wind grew in intensity.

Like other emergency responders, Brainerd Police officers went from call to call Tuesday with a vehicle off the road by Mill Avenue at Lakeview Lane, a vehicle stuck off the roadway on Highway 210 near the Victory Gas Station in northeast Brainerd and a crash at South Sixth and Wright streets. Some crashes, like a single vehicle rollover south of Motley on Highway 10 resulted in non-life-threatening injuries. Tuesday night, emergency responders were also busy at the scene of a crash on Highway 25 and Red Pine Road near Jack's House Bowl.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation Tuesday advised no unnecessary travel across 12 central Minnesota counties due to blowing snow, icy roads and limited visibility. Motorists were advised to delay travel if possible and expect to encounter lane and road closures where crashes occur. As of 11:50 a.m., Tuesday, eastbound Interstate 94 at Highway 25 in Monticello was closed due to multiple crashes.

Counties across the lakes region in the travel advisory included Aitkin, Cass, Crow Wing, Mille Lacs, Morrison, Todd and Wadena counties. Other counties in the advisory were Stearns, Benton, Sherburne, Mille Lacs, Isanti and Kanabec counties.

The National Weather Service in Duluth reports snow is likely today, mainly before noon. Expect another blast of frigid air as a high for the day may reach 3 degrees. Wind chill values tonight may drop to 25 below. The cold continues Thursday when the high may be 5 degrees and with wind chills of 20 below to 30 below. Friday keeps the trend going with a high near 4 degrees. But Saturday begins to put a stake in the heart of the deep freeze as the high climbs dramatically, or so it may seem, to 17 degrees and stays above zero overnight. By Sunday, the high may be 23 degrees followed by an extended forecast into the coming week with highs in the mid-30s.

Including Monday's snowfall, 4 inches of snow was reported just east of Baxter by late Tuesday morning. But there were areas with higher totals as of Tuesday night with 7.2 inches reported in Willmar and 6 inches in Avon in Stearns County.

Winter driving safety tips

The state transportation department reported MnDOT snowplow operators are doing their part to make highways safe and recommended motorists:

• Use a safe speed for winter driving conditions, regardless of the posted speed limit,

• Keep a safe stopping distance from the vehicle in front of them,

• Keep both hands on the steering wheel and eyes on the road and stay alert,

• Watch for plows, law enforcement, first responders and other vehicles that may be stopped along highways and interstates.

Go to www.mndot.gov/workzone/winter.html, for additional tips on safe winter driving or www.511mn.org for updated road condition information, or call 511.

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