As light snow fell across the Twin Cities early Thursday, dangerous winds and heavy snow were sweeping into northwestern Minnesota.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation reported at least two highways shut down by 3 a.m. because of poor visibility.
Among them were U.S. Highway 2 from near East Grand Forks to Crookston, and Minn. Highway 200 between the North Dakota state line and U.S. 75 near Halstad.
"Advising no unnecessary travel in" northwestern and west central Minnesota," State Patrol Sgt. Jesse Grabow tweeted around 5 a.m. A few minutes before that he said that the Patrol was handling vehicle-off-the-road incidents at Interstate Hwy. 94 mile posts 5, 10, 35, 39, 40, 41 and 49 on the stretch between Moorhead and Fergus Falls.
The National Weather Service issued several blizzard warnings leading up to the storm. Motorists were told of possible whiteout conditions created by heavy wind gusts and blowing snow.
Shortly after 3 a.m., two Kennedy, Minn., firefighters rescued a motorist who became stranded on Highway 11 after running off the road and then running out of gas, according to Tim Nordine, a jailer at the Kittson County Sheriff’s Department.
The motorist called for help shortly after midnight, but road conditions made it difficult to reach him. Nordine said the man was trying to get home to Warroad from Dickinson, N.D., where he’d worked in oil production.
“People had to risk their lives to go out to get him,” Nordine said. “I can’t believe he was even on the road.”
Most drivers in the Crookston area appeared to be heeding the warnings, the official said, though he wasn't surprised that a few did not.
“The last big storm we had 50 people stranded,” he said. "People disobey and drive around the flashing lights and signs."
By 2 a.m. Thursday, snow was falling and heavy winds were blowing across northwestern Minnesota cities, including Hallock, Roseau and Thief River Falls. The Iron Range as well as north central and west central Minnesota also saw light snow.
Temperatures in the Twin Cities and the west central cities of Willmar, Elbow Lake and Morris remained in the 30s overnight, but hovered in the teens in much of northern Minnesota.
But the warmer weather won’t last. Instead, the Twin Cities will see temperatures drop throughout the day to an overnight low near zero. The sun may shine on Friday, but the high is only expected to reach the low teens.