WESTBROOK, Minn. — A strong winter storm whipped up whiteout conditions, causing state officials to close interstates — sending stranded motorists to National Guard armories and keeping about 200 students at their schools overnight.
The Minnesota National Guard opened armories in Olivia, Marshall and St. James to motorists caught in the storm Monday. Minnesota Department of Safety spokesman Doug Neville says about 150 people sought shelter at the armories, at a law enforcement center in Windom and at a school in Luverne.
And in Westbrook, impassable roads kept 100 students overnight at the high school and another 100 at the elementary school.
High school principal Bill Richards says students slept on wrestling mats with boys on one side of the gym, girls on the other and Richards in the middle.
"Most dropped off by 1 a.m. There were some who couldn't get to sleep because you've always got one that snores," Richards said. Local residents donated pillows and blankets, but some students were still cold, so Richards scoured the theater department for fur coats and other warm clothes.
"Some of them were in pretty fancy stuff for the night," he said.
Travel for those who did make it home was treacherous. Vern Seeman of Clara City says a drive that usually takes him 20 minutes took an hour.
"There were spots where I was driving on the rumble strips. That way, I knew where I was on the road," Seeman told the West Central Tribune. "I haven't done that for a long time and it just wasn't a fun trip."
The state Department of Transportation closed southbound Interstate 35 from Albert Lea to the Iowa border during Monday's whiteout conditions. Interstate 90 was closed from Albert Lea to South Dakota.
Minnesota officials kept state offices closed until 10 a.m. Tuesday in Blue Earth, Brown, Faribault, Jackson, LeSeuer, Martin, McLeod, Nicollet, Nobles, Rock, Sibley, Waseca and Watonwan counties.
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