UPDATED: Winter storm pummels region; multiple crashes reported; no travel advised
BEMIDJI -- Multiple crashes were reported in the Bemidji area as a winter storm descended Thursday afternoon.
The winter storm was pummeling most of Minnesota, as well as South and North Dakota on Thursday, leading to multiple accidents and road closures. Visibility dropped to near zero in some areas throughout the evening in the Bemidji region.
The late-season storm was expected to bring large amounts of heavy, wet snow, which will be driven by high winds. In many areas, the snowstorm coincides with flooding, meaning many road ditches are full of deep water, creating an additional hazard for motorists who lose control and slide off the road.
Minnesota transportation officials issued a no-travel advisory for state and federal highways in Clay, Wilkin, Becker, Mahnomen, Otter Tail, Big Stone, Douglas, Grant, Pope, Stevens, Swift and Traverse counties due to dangerous driving conditions. Travel was not advised south of U.S. Highway 2 from the North Dakota border to just west of Bemidji. Snow plows are operating, but travelers are advised to avoid these counties until conditions improve, a release said.
A no-travel advisory also was posted just before 7 p.m. for the following areas, according to the Minnesota Department of Transportation:
Highway 2- Bagley to Deer River.
Highway 64- Highway 200 to south of Akeley.
Highway 71- Bemidji to Menahga.
Highway 371- Cass Lake to Hackensack.
As of late afternoon, there were approximately 150 accidents throughout the state, according to Minnesota State Patrol Sgt. Jesse Grabow.
Shortly after 4 p.m., a Laporte Public School bus slid into a ditch near Cass Lake. One student was sent to a nearby hospital, district staff confirmed to the Pioneer.
In addition to the storm, several roads in northwest Minnesota also were closed because of spring flooding.
For Minnesota road conditions, visit www.511mn.org.
The forecast for the immediate Bemidji area from the National Weather Service:
Friday: Snow. High near 34. North northeast wind 10 to 17 mph, with gusts as high as 25 mph. Chance of precipitation is 90%. New snow accumulation of 1 to 3 inches possible.
Friday night: A 40% chance of snow. Cloudy, with a low around 23. Northwest wind 7 to 11 mph. New snow accumulation of less than one inch possible.
Saturday: Mostly sunny, with a high near 41. Northwest wind around 8 mph.
Saturday night: Mostly clear, with a low around 20. West wind around 5 mph becoming calm in the evening.
Sunday: Sunny, with a high near 45. Calm wind becoming south southeast 5 to 8 mph in the morning.
Sunday night: Partly cloudy, with a low around 24. South southeast wind around 7 mph.
Monday: A 20% chance of rain after 1 p.m. Partly sunny, with a high near 45. South wind 7 to 11 mph, with gusts as high as 23 mph.