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Patrol: Stay off roads through weekend; National Guard called to help

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Gov. Mark Dayton declared a state of emergency Friday, the National Guard was called to help stranded motorists and Minnesota drivers were asked to stay off the roads as the state slowly dug out after the biggest snowstorm of the winter.

The Star Tribune reported the State Patrol wants motorists to stay home for the next few days – or stay put – for their own safety. Roads conditions won't improve anytime soon, troopers said.

“If you don’t absolutely need to travel through the weekend, don’t do it,” Patrol Lt. Eric Roeske said.

Indeed, the roads were the story Friday after a storm dumped nearly a foot of snow in some parts of the metro.

In many places around the state, highways were in the worst shape in 25 years, State Patrol officials said. Many drivers reported snow had been compacted into sheets of ice. FOX 9 reported more than 40 semi jackknifes, and the station had video from Interstate 494 of one vehicle after another trying to get traction.

The State Patrol reported that between 2 p.m. Thursday and 10 a.m. Friday troopers responded to 404 crashes, including one that was fatal and 32 that involved injury, State Patrol officials reported. More than 1,300 vehicles either spun out or left the road.

MnDOT cameras and KARE’s SKY 11 showed backups on major routes stretching for miles. Interstate 94 was closed at one point at Highway 280 after semis got stuck, spinning their wheels and blocking both lanes. A similar situation unfolded on I-394 westbound outside the Lowry Tunnel in Minneapolis.

The storm battered southeast Minnesota with especially ferocious blows, closing segments of at least 10 highways, the Rochester Post Bulletin reported. For the first time in 32 years, Rochester City Lines canceled its scheduled bus service.

Interstate 35 from Owatonna south to Iowa was closed for part of the day.

KAAL in Austin reported that the drifting and compacted snow made roadways treacherous in the southern part of the state, with many of them limited to a single lane.

KARE 11 reported the conditions prompted all State Patrol command staff to suspend daily duties on Friday and shift to providing assistance on state highways. The patrol added that it expects road conditions to remain treacherous for the next several days.

High winds and bitter temperatures are contributing to dangerous conditions for those stranded.

Dayton pressed the Minnesota National Guard into service to rescue motorists. The Star Tribune reports that Dayton ordered the Minnesota National Guard to deploy in the central and southeastern part of the state. The sheriffs of Renville, Steele and Freeborn Counties requested help to rescue and shelter travelers.

The Associated Press reported that Dayton's order was needed to officially mobilize the Guard and get it reimbursed for costs.

In all, 5 to 17 inches of news snow fell on Minnesota and western Wisconsin. FOX 9 compiled a list, below, of the most recent snow totals.

Heavy snow weighed heavily on trees and roofs. Among others, roof collapses were reported at a sports and marine business in Ramsey, and in Norwood Young America, where a barn collapsed.

Snow totals:

12.0" Clear Lake, Wisconsin

11.5" River Falls, Wisconsin

11.0" Isanti, Dayton, Rogers, East Bethel; Cumberland, Wisconsin

10.5" South Minneapolis

10.1" North St. Paul

10.0" Mapleton

9.9" MSP Airport

9.7" Blaine

9.5" Prior Lake

9.2" White Bear Lake

9.1" Lakeville, Chanhassen

9.0" Forest Lake, Maplewood, Maple Plain, Maple Grove

8.8" Chaska

8.2" St. Cloud

8.0" Goodhue, Faribault, Robbinsdale, Albertville, Eden Prairie; Menomonie, Wisconsin

7.9" Hillman

7.8" Fridley

7.5" Kimball

7.0" Bloomington, Mankato, Red Wing, Victoria

6.9" Hastings

6.8" Darwin

6.0" Elk Mound, Wisconsin

5.5" Madelia

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