Winter comes blasting back
Blistering winds pushed a steady snowfall Tuesday afternoon, creating blizzard conditions that immobilized much of southern Minnesota and led to early school closures.
According to Red Wing Regional Airport data, sustained wind gusts reached about 25 miles per hour, peaking at about 30, as temperatures plummeted throughout the day.
But it was poor visibility triggered by the blowing snow that led Red Wing School District Supt. Stan Slessor to shut down schools two hours early. He made the decision before a snowflake hit Red Wing, but all reports pointed to near whiteout conditions in the approaching storm.
"I wanted to get out ahead of it so the kids would have a good chance of getting home safely," Slessor said.
Airport data indicated that visibility dropped to about a half-mile in the afternoon hours.
Other districts that shut down early included Cannon Falls, Goodhue, Kenyon-Wanamingo, Pine Island and Zumbrota.
The Minnesota State Patrol closed Interstate 35 from Owatonna to Albert Lea around 12:30 p.m. because of blizzard conditions.
Gov. Tim Pawlenty ordered the National Guard to open its armory in Owatonna as a shelter for stranded travelers.
Also, a stretch of Interstate 90 between St. Charles and Dover -- tiny towns about five miles apart west of Rochester -- was closed after a multivehicle crash.
The conditions were being driven by an arctic cold front that brought wind, snow and cold back to Minnesota on Tuesday after a relatively warm day Monday.
Temperatures were expected to drop below zero in western Minnesota and were expected to fall into the single digits in the eastern part of the state. The coldest spot was projected to be the northwest, were temperatures were likely to plummet to around 25 below zero, according to the National Weather Service.
A power outage hit several Clay County communities, including Wolverton, Sabin and Comstock, just as temperatures were beginning to dip on Tuesday morning. Xcel Energy Crews restored the power in about 90 minutes.
The Associated Press contributed to this report