Winter storm leads to more than a dozen crashes in Mower County

Published 6:58 am Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Austin is under a winter storm warning and a snow emergency as up to 10 inches of the white fluffy stuff is expected to accumulate by Tuesday evening.

During a snow emergency, motorists should park on the even side of the street on even calendar days — and the odd side on odd days — so that plows can come through.

The emergency went into effect at 8 a.m. and could last for up to 72 hours.

City engineer Jon Erichson said about a dozen plows have been out on the road since early Monday, as well as several smaller trucks to deal with area parking lots and alleyways.

The engineer said the slower, steadier snowfall is better for motorists and overall road conditions, but it does mean more work for city crews because they have to go over areas multiple times.

However, the gradual snowfall has started to add up. Between two and six inches of snow had already fallen across southeastern Minnesota as of Monday evening, with two to four more on the way.

As a result, driving conditions in the area have been very poor, and the Minnesota Department of Transportation is urging people to avoid driving altogether or to drive very slowly and safely if on the road.

In fact, three MnDOT vehicles were involved in crashes during Monday morning rush hour, with one plow hitting a vehicle head-on between Chatsfield and Stewartville on Highway 30. There were no serious injuries in any of the three incidents.

Statewide, 416 vehicles had gone off the roadway because of the weather as of Monday afternoon. There were also 57 reported injuries, though none of them were serious, according to the Minnesota Emergency Operations Center.

In Mower County, there were 13 crashes between early Monday morning and Monday evening, as well as a large number of vehicles in ditches, sheriff Terese Amazi said.

Thankfully, Amazi said, none of these resulted in injuries, but she still advised motorists to avoid the roads.

“They’re not good,” she said.

If people do drive, the sheriff said they should drive slow, avoid using cruise control and wear their seat belts.