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Whiteout conditions, crashes make Minnesota roads a mess; blizzard warning until 3 a.m.

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Wind gusts up to 50 mph combined with fresh snow to make travel dangerous across Minnesota Thursday evening. leading state officials to close some highways and advise no travel across much of the state.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation is advising no unnecessary travel in south-central and northwestern Minnesota Thursday night, saying reduced visibility from the blowing snow, extreme cold and uncertain road conditions could cause trouble for motorists.

A blizzard warning was extended to cover much of western, central and southern Minnesota until 3 a.m. The National Weather Service tweeted that a 54 mph wind gust was recorded on Highway 212 near the Minnesota-South Dakota border, just west of Dawson. Visibility reached zero in some places, including Fairmont.

In the Twin Cities, more than 500 spinouts and crashes were reported even before rush hour started. And things didn't get better.

As the fast-moving storm heads out of the state overnight, another round of bitterly cold air will follow in its wake. Forecasters expect temperatures to fall well below zero overnight and will stay in the single digits Friday.

Plymouth became the first city in the metro area to declare a snow emergency Thursday, WCCO reports,  taking effect at 10 p.m.

In southern Minnesota, at least 15 roads were closed by 3 p.m, including state highways in Brown, Cottonwood, Jackson, Martin, Nobles and Watonwon counties. Check out the live traffic map from MnDOT. (Click here to view the mobile version.)

There were dozens of reports of crashes in the Twin Cities (that would be every purple exclamation mark on the map below).

State Patrol Lt. Tiffani Nielson says two squad cars were involved in crashes and one man was hospitalized after he was hit by another car after his own vehicle left the road.

Multiple crashes closed Highway 212 at the 5 split for a bit, but it reopened around 3:30 p.m.

Up north, Highway 2 between Crookston and Grand Forks was closed, the Bemidji Pioneer says.

Here are some tweets about Thursday's conditions:

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Some schools in southern Minnesota closed early Thursday to get students home before the worst of the weather, WCCO reported.

Look back through a live blog BringMeTheNews maintained during the evening rush hour here:

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