Transportation officials have reopened state highways and Interstate 90 in southwestern Minnesota, saying conditions have improved.
A snowstorm dumped 6 inches to 8 inches of snow in the area Wednesday and Thursday, and high winds led to blizzard conditions. Plows were pulled off the road because of low visibility and because they couldn't keep up with the drifting snow.
Westbound I-90 had been closed from Albert Lea to the South Dakota border, and I-90 was closed in both directions between the border and Fairmont. State highways in Cottonwood, Jackson, Nobles, Rock, Brown, Faribault, Martin and Watonwan had also been closed.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation was still warning of difficult driving conditions in western and southwestern Minnesota. Officials warned of slippery conditions and said drivers should watch out for drifts, plows and tow trucks working to remove stranded vehicles.
"By midday things will be looking pretty good," Gutknecht said. "The wind has dropped down a little bit, which has improved visibility."
The winds had been gusting to nearly 40 mph on Thursday. Dangerously cold wind chills ranging from 20- to 40-below moved in across the state overnight. A wind chill warning remained in effect in southwestern Minnesota, and part of the rest of the state was under a wind chill advisory.
Although most of the inch or two of snow that fell in the Twin Cities area had been cleared, roads were still slippery Friday morning. More than a dozen accidents were reported during the morning rush hour, including several rollovers.
The Minnesota State Patrol said the snowy, slippery conditions led to nearly 600 property damage crashes and 457 vehicles off the road statewide between 6 a.m. Thursday and 6 a.m. Friday.
Gutknecht said plows on Friday were sometimes having to plow around stuck vehicles that had driven around barricades.
"That's a significant issue," he said. "If we have to shut a road down, it's for very good reason."
Motorists can be fined up to $1,000 for driving on a closed road.
Several accidents involving snow plows were reported Thursday, and officials asked drivers to be cautious when approaching the plows.
One person was seriously injured in a head-on crash in western Minnesota's Swift County on Thursday morning. Investigators said the driver of a van was following a snow plow, drifted into the other lane and collided with an oncoming truck.
The storm stranded hundreds of travelers. Georgi Meier, who works at the Blue Line Travel Center in Worthington, said the storm forced her and dozens of truckers to stay put.
"They decided they needed to stay here with me and hang out. We've just been doing the old coffee, talking, laughing, joking, having a good old time," Meier said.