Minnesota National Guard describes blizzard weekend as 'nonstop' busy

With fewer rescue calls coming in, now starts the clean up.

Posted: Feb. 26, 2019 4:54 AM
Updated: Feb. 26, 2019 8:30 AM

STEELE COUNTY, Minn. - According to Minnesota Homeland Security around 282 stranded motorists were rescued between Steele and Freeborn County. 

Much of the rescues done by local law enforcement and the Minnesota National Guard. 

Captain Joseph Howe is the officer in charge of the operations in both Owatanna and Albert Lea, where the armories in the towns are being used as shelters for stranded motorists. 

He said the biggest challenge in all the operations is battling drifts as tall as 7 feet. 

"Trying to find them in these snow drifts when the snow drifts have pretty much taken over the vehicle. I don't have anyone on our staff that has seen it to this extent," Captain Howe said. 

As of Monday morning, he said fewer rescue calls have been coming in which could be an indication that most drivers have been found. 

"Now it's the cleaning up factor.," he said. "Son as soon as we get the roads out, we'll start transporting people to wherever their cars were towed to."

As area hotel rooms start opening up, he said they can also start transporting people who have been staying at the shelter. 

So far, over 70 people have stayed at the armoy in Albert Lea. Over 150 people have stayed at the armory in Owatanna. 

No timeline is set for how long the shelters will be open. Captain Howe said it all depends on how quickly the roads can become safe to drive on again. 

Captain Howe also notes how efficiently different agencies came together to save people in need during and following the blizzard. 

"To be that pillar of strength opening up the armories," he said. "Everybody has come together great. The communication between all agencies has been really well to come up with a course of action to get to stranded vehicles."

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Tracking a mostly pleasant Memorial Day weekend.
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