Blizzard buries Austin: Crashes, outages dot area after storm

Published 10:46am Friday, February 21, 2014

A blizzard has left hundreds without power and impassable roads as Mower County shovels itself out of the first big snowfall this winter.

Mower County Sheriff Terese Amazi had Highway 218 closed with barricades from Austin to Owatonna Friday morning after numerous crash reports flooded county dispatchers. Interstate 90, Interstate 35, and all county roads are also closed until highway workers can clear paths and emergency personnel can help stranded motorists.

“Don’t get out and about,” Amazi said. “Travel is extremely difficult in the city and impossible in the county.”

City and county workers plowed roads until 6 p.m. Thursday, and were back on the job as of 5 a.m. Friday, according to Wayne Madson, Mower County emergency services director. Crews are moving slowly throughout the county as blowing snow has made it difficult to see the roads.

Amazi strongly urged residents to stay indoors throughout the day, as reports of crashes and cars stuck in ditches have caused all major roadways throughout Mower County to shut down. Deputies pulled more than 40 residents and one dog out of ditches during the last major blizzard in Austin, according to Amazi, and Thursday’s storm looked to be far worse. All deputies in Mower County were on duty Friday morning but couldn’t easily respond to calls because of blowing snow and accidents obstructing roadways.

Hundreds of people outside of Austin were left without power Friday because of the storm. Freeborn-Mower Cooperative Services reported about 120 people without power in Lansing as of 9 a.m., along with about 13 without power in Lyle, 16 in Dexter, five in Grand Meadow, six in Sergeant and 38 in Austin.

Austin Utilities General Manager Mark Nibaur said there were numerous minor outages throughout the city during the storm, but many were already resolved by Friday morning. Utilities workers were out until midnight fixing downed lines and restoring power, and went back to work when calls came in starting at 6 a.m. Nibaur urged residents without power to contact Austin Utilities at its emergency line at 507-433-8889 or its regular line at 507-433-8886.

Nibaur also asked residents to clear off snow from their gas meters, as well as shovel a path for utility workers to use. Residents should call Austin Utilities for help removing ice from gas meters, however.

A travel advisory is in effect for Mower County until further notice.

“Stay indoors,” Amazi said. “If you must travel outside, don’t.”

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