OLIVIA, Minn. (FOX 9) - The Minnesota National Guard was called in overnight Thursday to help rescue motorists stranded on the highway in western Minnesota amid blizzard conditions and subzero temperatures.
Overnight Thursday, the Renville County Sheriff’s Office received numerous reports of vehicles off the road or stuck in drifts, particularly on Highway 71 north of Olivia, leaving drivers and passengers stranded in subzero temperatures.
Deputies spent several hours driving to reach the stranded motorists and bring them to safety, but the highway was becoming “completely impassable.”
The sheriff’s office eventually put out a request for assistance from the Minnesota National Guard.
Gov. Tim Walz declared a state of emergency and ordered the National Guard unit in Olivia to help rescue the stranded motorists.
The National Guard unit conducted two separate rescue missions with their SUSV tracked vehicle during the night and rescued eight people from vehicles on Highway 71. The rescued people were brought to the armory in Olivia, which had been opened as an emergency shelter. Ten other stranded motorists were also brought there for the night.
"A seven and a half-mile trip turned into a disaster," said D.J. Keil, who was stranded after he drove into a snow drift. "You couldn’t see more than 10-15 feet in front of you. The road was clear. I was only going 30 mph. It was like hitting a wall.”
Renville County Sheriff Scott Hable added, "Imagine taking wax paper, putting over your windshield and then trying to navigate from Point A to Point B. That’s zero visibility.”